By Kiet Do

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — San Jose State University can now count itself among one of the main drivers of California’s economy, the fifth largest in the world, according to a new report.

“Economic and Social Impact”, the university’s inaugural 82-page study by Beacon Economics, compiled data from 2018 and 2019 to calculate and quantify the university’s contributions across a wide range of metrics.

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Some of the main findings

  • $4.1 billion economic impact statewide;
  • SJSU-related spending supports 25,460 jobs statewide;
  • Student population is 83% people of color;
  • 42% first-generation college students;
  • Every $1 dollar of state funding generates $24 economic output.

“And it showed that San Jose State produced the equivalent of $4.1 billion of value for the state of California. And that’s a one to 24 return on investment,” said Mary Papazian, SJSU President.

Papazian said the effort to quantify the university’s impact came after she consistently heard from alumni and faculty that SJSU was a “well-kept secret”.

“If we don’t tell that story, and people don’t know that, the community is not able to take full advantage of what we have to offer,” said Papazian.

As for hiring managers at tech firms in Silicon Valley, who look past SJSU graduates in favor of candidates from ivy league or elite private schools, Papazian called that “unfortunate”.

“We know who we are. It’s not the same role that Stanford or UC Berkeley plays,” said Papazian. “Many of the companies around us are still struggling with the issue of diversity and inclusion. And part of the reason is just what you say, it suggests a perspective and a bias that I think isn’t reflected actually in reality. Our students are willing to work hard, they’re resilient, they’ll learn from the ground up, they really do learn. And they grow with the company and they will give them everything they have because they learn to balance things without privilege.”

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SJSU students also graduate with an average of $15,720 in loan debt.

Flor Sario, a recent business graduate who has about $4,000 in student loans, said the university’s diverse climate made her comfortable in opening up about her upbringing in the farm working community in King City.

“San Jose State introduced me to my future self, the best version of myself,” said Sario.

Sario recalled the moment when her mother, who is illiterate and never attended school, witnessed her virtual graduation.

“When I walked out in my regalia, my gown, and cap and dress, she just cried,” said Sario. “Seeing how far I’ve come let her know that she’s done something right in raising me. And I think it validates the fact that had she been given a chance, she also would’ve accomplished amazing things.”

Sario will pursue her MBA and graduate degree in finance at Bentley University in Boston, this fall.

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“Students at San Jose State know what it’s like to have hardship in their lives. For them, school is not just another step that you take after high school. For them, school — college — is literally liberation. It’s freedom,” said Sario.