Cal Poly contributes $2.6 billion to region’s annual economy, new study finds

Buoyed by 10-year capital spending plan and development of educated regional workforce, university’s impact has grown 85% over last decade


Cover page of the Cal Poly Economic Impact report

Cal Poly generates $2.6 billion in annual economic impact across San Luis Obispo and Northern Santa Barbara counties, representing 12% of the region’s economic activity, according to a new assessment conducted by REACH and Deloitte.

Cal Poly’s contributions span many facets of the regional economy, including employment and spending by the university and its students, faculty and visitors, as well as a $1.4 billion boost to the region’s overall productivity and economic output from its development of an educated regional workforce.

The university is also ramping up a 10-year, $2.5 billion capital spending plan, including

 $1.1 billion for new student and faculty housing — outlays that will support 2,300 jobs in construction, related supply chains and the hotel and restaurant industries.

The annual impact represents an 85% increase over the $1.4 billion a Cal Poly assessment found in 2014. Considering factors most closely related to enrollment size — university payroll, local university purchases, student spending and visitor spending — the annual impact amounts to $41,380 per student.

“This report quantifies what many people in the region already perceive: that Cal Poly is an impactful institution that brings a range of benefits to the Central Coast,” REACH President/CEO Melissa James said. “Alongside our other valuable educational institutions, Cal Poly plays a critical role in advancing innovation, regional industry and individual opportunity across the region.”

The report also delves beyond traditional economic measures, examining the university’s impact across three areas: innovation and entrepreneurship; diversity, equity and inclusion; and K-12 education. Among the findings: 

  • Innovation and entrepreneurship: Through Cal Poly’s work to foster regional entrepreneurship and business growth, 120 companies have launched, $250 million in capital has been secured, and more than 1,000 jobs have been generated. 
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion: Cal Poly has instituted a range of strategies and programs to advance DEI across its campus and throughout the broader socioeconomic landscape.
  • K-12 education: 41.2% of all credentialed San Luis Coastal Unified School District employees have a qualification from Cal Poly, illustrating the university’s role in mitigating persistent educator shortages across the Central Coast and California.

“Cal Poly has worked diligently over the last decade to ensure we are not only a premier educational institution but also a dedicated community partner contributing to economic development and quality of life on the Central Coast,” Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong said. “We are fully committed to our role in shaping the future of both our students and our region and look forward to working closely with the community to further enhance Cal Poly’s influence in the years ahead.”

Read the full report.