Welcome Back, Students!

Ah, SCSU move-in day is now complete and classes are set to start soon. For many this can be a time of year to dread. House parties, loud drunken pedestrians, increased property crimes and all other sorts of debauchery. I know, I am an SCSU alumni who took part in a few of these activities *wink*.

However, I am now a middle-aged St Cloud citizen who finds myself more than just a little annoyed by all of the antics and destruction that takes place in the neighborhoods surrounding the college not to mention the increased violence that we see occurring downtown with bar fights and the like. As a college student, I used to think that all the “old folks” like me went home at 10 pm because they were all just so lame when the truth is I now go home at 10 pm because I just can’t stand to see that much skin on girls who look so young and all the stupidity that goes along with the quest to get wasted. I’m a mom now. I just want to go up to all of those girls and hand them a coat and remind them they are better than that. I want to go up to all of those boys and remind them that they have so much more potential than being the guy who could drink the most shots. I start to find myself becoming a fist shaker, “Damn kids!”, and wishing that this wasn’t a college town.

What I’ve failed to overlook among all the tube tops and beer bongs is how much our local colleges contributes to our city.

St. Cloud State University has more than 16,000 students registered each year coming from every part of the state, the country, and more than 80 nations. In a 2013 report by Wilder Research it is noted that  St. Cloud State University generates an annual economic impact of $519 million. This means that for every $100 produced in the region, $4 are directly or indirectly related to St. Cloud State University.  Similarly, during 2011 the university and its students generated an estimated 6,579 jobs in the region.

Courtesy of Claremont College Digital Library- Flickr

Courtesy of Claremont College Digital Library- Flickr

In addition to a wonderful amount of diversity that our International students bring, they are also have a vast contribution to our local economy. According to NAFSA’s latest economic analysis, international students and their families created or supported 340,000 jobs and contributed $26.8 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2013-2014 academic year. For every 7 international students enrolled, 3 U.S. jobs are created or supported by their spending habits.  For St Cloud State that means our international students bring in $24,136.4 and help to create or support 158 jobs locally.

SCSU isn’t the only college in our town making a contribution. Additionally, St Cloud State Technical College (SCTCC), Minnesota School of Business, Rasmussen  College, The College of St Scholastica are just a few, not to mention trade schools such as the Model College of Hair Design and Regency Beauty Institute. While we were not able to individually add up the contribution of all of these schools it was noted that SCTCC’s economic impact on the community brings in $121 million and 1,482 jobs. The study also concluded that SCTCC generates about $7 million in tax revenues for state and local government and St. Cloud State generates approximately $29 million.

That is a large sum that students and the college industry are creating for our community. However, the benefit of living in a college town doesn’t end there. Here are some of the other ways our colleges are giving back:

St. Cloud State University Community Garden: Once an empty lot north of the St. Cloud State Women’s Center, the community Garden has become a lively summer place for campus and community people to grow food and develop friendships. The brainchild of St. Cloud State Sociology Professor Tracy Ore, the organic and sustainably maintained garden began with a few volunteers six years ago and each year has attracted greater numbers of neighbors of all ages to join in a collaboration that yields surprising results for participants. Gardeners volunteer in a variety of ways and in varying degrees. The volunteers work hard and celebrate on Sundays with a potluck where they enjoy the actual “fruits” of their labor.

St. Cloud State University’s Trayless Dining:   SCSU implemented trayless dining at the on‐ campus cafeteria.   First piloted in 2009, going trayless saves 650‐750 pounds of food and 400‐500 gallons of water a day; use of chemicals like soap and rinse solution is down 10 percent. As the first university in Minnesota to implement, the dining service provider of Sodexo will be leading similar efforts across the nation.

A partnership between Metro Bus and St. Cloud State University brought to reality the nation’s first public bus powered by recycled vegetable oil‐  Husky Fried Ride. The vegetable oil comes directly from on‐ campus dining, saving an estimated $2.30 per gallon. Sustainability is paying off.

Courtesy of Pass Out, XI on Flickr

Courtesy of Pass Out, XI on Flickr

Yes, those of you living near campus and downtown see (and hear) a side of student life most of us have the privileged to ignore making the benefits of living in a college town harder to embrace. Most of the crime reports from SCSU  are centered around alcohol and drug violations, both on and off campus.  In his book, Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard, anthropologist, sociologist and Ohio University professor Thomas Vander Ven explains:

“When you have a lot of young people together drinking to intoxication, for some of them, they feel it’s fun. Because anything can happen; inhibitions are down; people say and do things that they wouldn’t normally do. They’re more courageous, more socially dexterous; they’re able to approach people that they’re interested in romantically or sexually; and they kind of take their guard down.”   -Vander Ven

Courtesy of Crossfirecw on Flickr

Courtesy of Crossfirecw on Flickr

And his research shows we shouldn’t expect this to change anytime soon. Despite great groups out there like U-Choose educating college students about the dangers of binge drinking and providing alternative fun to drinking, most students are in it for the “war stories”:

“One of my questions was, why do they continue to do this, when so much can and does go wrong? Getting sick, getting arrested, getting in fights and all that. My data sort of suggests that part of the reason they continue is because of those things that go wrong.  -Vander Ven

It is important to remember that this is only a portion of the student body. There are numerous students that are bringing good to our community every day through various service projects, the development of new technology, and work through various student organizations. Unfortunately, their contribution is often overlooked or unheard of among the din of house parties and catcalls. So let me suggest you batten down your windows, buy a noise machine, and relish in the fact that all that hard drinking and partying is bringing more than hangovers to our community.

[bctt tweet=”Our colleges bring far more than hangovers to our community! “]

For more information on SCSU sustainability projects:

For more information on how SCTCC builds our workforce:

*This article is a guest post, written by a local member of our community.