The Economic & Civic Impact of Hobart and William Smith on Geneva

Ross Hicks

Ross Hicks, Hobart '11
Public Policy and Environmental Studies Double Major

"The purpose of this project was to clarify the true impacts of Hobart and William Smith on the Geneva community. There is a wide range of opinions on whether HWS is beneficial to the community and if so than how much of a benefit. Some community members don't see HWS as that helpful because they simply look at the foregone property tax revenues to the city from the HWS properties. Property taxes are very easy to calculate with assessment data; however, having an institution such as HWS gives the community benefits far beyond simple property taxes. The amount of student spending alone far outweighs these foregone property tax revenues and when you add in the guest lectures, conferences, community service, and other impact HWS has on the community (which go directly to the citizens) it is easy to see that HWS is a net positive for Geneva. We wanted to attach numbers to these externalities to prove this."

What were your goals for the project? What did you hope to accomplish?

  • I wanted to get an accurate read on the less tangible factors that affect the community. It is much easier to see how students can affect the city when they go out to dinner or the movies but it is much less visible when they are doing more mundane tasks like buying groceries or furniture. The Citizens of Geneva are able to see us do pretty much anything in the community at an individual scale but may not be able to comprehend the complexities of the impact of the actions of all the students combined. Even we were amazed at some of the numbers and never could have imagined the impact we have on the community such as the over 135,000 hours of community service performed annually by HWS students.
  • Our survey sought to clarify the impacts and quell rumors of student impacts. It was great to put factual numbers out that give people answers rather than approximations. When everyone is using the same numbers and those numbers are from a reputable source it helps everyone in the community. The community knows where our impacts are and can tailor policies to attract more business from students in certain areas and the Colleges can focus on helping groups who get fewer or smaller impacts from students.

What did you personally learn? How has this project affected you?

"This project made me realize how broadly an educational institution like HWS can influence a town or city. Everything students do has an effect, including things we might not expect such as buying gas for our cars or getting a 3 a.m. coffee during finals week. Furthermore, with this project I learned the complexities of doing a survey of this magnitude and how to go about conducting this type of research. The skills I gained from this project were skills that I later on applied to my summer internship in the Economic Development Office for the City of New Haven, Conn." - Ross Hicks

Executive Summary

Study Highlights


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.