University Economic Impact Analysis: Applying microeconomic tools and concepts

This page authored by Nancy Brooks, based on an impact analysis of the University of Vermont conducted with Richard Schramm.
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project
Initial Publication Date: November 30, 2010


This service-learning impact analysis project had students look in detail at the current employment and purchasing practices and policies of the University of Vermont. Unlike traditional impact analyses that attempt to calculate the total impact of an institution on the local economy, this project attempted to identify where the University could change policies and practices to increase positive local impacts both from an efficiency and equity perspective. Students worked with a 14-person advisory committee from the University, local and state government and local non-profits.

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Learning Goals

Experiential exposure to many of the core concepts of microeconomics.

Cost-benefit analysis

Market Failures and understanding of remedies to those failures.

Equity issues and understanding of remedies to improve equity such consideration of a university livable wage policy.

Human capital formation and alternative to traditional schooling to develop human capital.

In addition, other learning goals (also listed on the syllabus (Microsoft Word 45kB Mar30 10) included:

Strengthening or developing student skills in (a) analysis, interviewing, surveys and other research methods, (b) writing, presentation, website construction and other forms of communication and (c) working independently and in teams.

Finally, service goals included:

Providing findings and recommendations to the advisory committee of the UVM/Burlington COPC UVM Impacts Project

Contribute to positive workforce and business development impacts on Burlington's diverse but economically disadvantage Old North End (ONE) neighborhood.

Contribute to the the building of lasting partnerships between community members and organizations and the University of Vermont.

Context for Use

This is a full-semester course. Suitable as a capstone course, although, our students were not seniors. Microeconomics would be a necessary prerequisite for the course.

Description and Teaching Materials

I have attached the syllabus (Microsoft Word 45kB Mar30 10) for the course.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Preparing and Designing

This course was taught as part of the University's Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) Grant received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This grant provided support for this course but it is not necessary to have a grant to teach a course like this. Specifically, the COPC grant writing process helped create our advisory committee and the grant articulated, in part, the general expectations and responsibilities of the students, faculty and community. More information about the UVM economic impacts project is available at


We used a lot of reflection activities including journaling and end-of-semester evaluations to assess learning. We also assessed learning by the quality of the reports and presentations they provided our advisory committee.

References and Resources

A more detailed discussion of the impacts project is available in the following journal article
Brooks, N. and R. Schramm (winter 2007) Integrating Economics Research, Education and Service, Journal of Economic Education, pgs. 36-43.