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Study finds WSSU’s annual impact on Triad is nearly $500 million

Recording artist Kwanza Jones addresses graduates during the Commencement Ceremony on May 10. 

A new study finds that Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) has an annual economic impact in the Piedmont Triad of nearly $500 million and generates more than 8,400 jobs.

Dr. Zagros Madjd-Sadjadi, the WSSU economics professor who conducted the study, said the majority of the impact – $299.3 million – is from the more than 12,000 university alumni who live and work in the Triad.

“What is the biggest way to get an individual from one economic class to another? Education,” Madjd-Sadjadi said. “WSSU is the best in the southern United States for taking low-income students and graduating them in fields that allow them to do well financially. Our alumni are staying in the Piedmont Triad, and they’re contributing to our tax base. This is huge, not only for the families but for our state.”

WSSU's annual impact on the region increased by nearly $57 million since Madjd-Sadjadi's 2018 study.  He said the biggest factor for this growth is the increasing number of WSSU graduates. Since August 2010, WSSU has awarded nearly 11,000 undergraduate degrees.

A key takeaway from the study, he said, is that spending money on education is a wise investment.

WSSU’s $494 million annual impact includes:

  • The "human capital impact," or the increased earnings for WSSU alumni who live and work in the region: $299.36 million
  • University spending on salaries, benefits, supplies and services: $187.5 million and 2,791 jobs
  • Spending by WSSU's nearly 5,200 students: $7.1 million and 109 jobs
  • Spending by WSSU visitors: $700,000

The study also found the region's unemployment rate would be 1 percentage point higher (5.5 percent vs. 4.5 percent) and per capita income would be reduced $350 without WSSU.

The eight counties included in the study are Forsyth, Alamance, Davidson, Davie, Guilford, Randolph, Stokes, and Yadkin counties.

The study gives a headline number but doesn’t tell the whole story of the university’s overall impact, Madjd-Sadjadi said. He points to:

  • The enhanced quality of life WSSU provides Triad residents through its community and cultural arts programs.
  • The impact WSSU alumni provide the Triad in areas such as education, nursing, and social work.

  • The enhanced national name recognition the university brings the city through prominent alumni such as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and NBA hall-of-famer Earl “The Pearl” Monroe; distinguished faculty; and WSSU athletics programs.

  • Triad residents who attended WSSU and received a career boost but did not graduate.

Ten WSSU undergraduate students assisted with the study through a class project and first presented the research during Scholarship Day on April 11.

About Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem State University fosters the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Founded in 1892, WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment.

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