The Economic Impact of the State University of New York (AY 2020)

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February 14, 2024

Brian Backstrom
Patrick Schumacher


The State University of New York (SUNY) is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, currently providing affordable, quality higher education to about 1.4 million students across its system of 64 college and university campuses and its entire portfolio of credit- and noncredit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs.

SUNY’s reach and role as the state’s foremost educational system is certainly immense. But what about the economic impact of SUNY as an employer and operator of its college and university campuses, and its four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and one US Department of Energy National Laboratory? And what is SUNY’s overall contribution to the innovation infrastructure and labor force in New York?

Unquestionably, SUNY is a key driver of the economic engine of New York State. SUNY’s annual economic impact in New York State was $31.0 billion in the academic year 2020-21 (AY 2020), an 8 percent growth in overall state economic impact since 2016 ($28.6B). This growth in impact has been driven largely by SUNY’s expanding hospitals and research activities; indeed, research and development activities system-wide have continued to grow, reaching more than $1.4 billion in 2020, an increase of more than 22 percent from just five years prior.

In AY 2020, the SUNY system educated 394,220 students, employed 72,185 faculty and staff, and had an operating budget supported by $12.95 billion in revenues. To put this in perspective, if SUNY were a private company, it would rank among the 10 largest employers in all of New York. The operations and student expenditures made throughout SUNY in AY 2020 supported a total of 157,600 jobs when counting both direct employment and employment that can be attributed to SUNY indirectly.

This report offers an update and expansion of the calculation of economic impact SUNY had on New York in 2018 made in a previous report by the Rockefeller Institute of Government.

Read the full report.