SCAD Generates $1.3 Billion in Economic Impact for Georgia

Staff Report

Wednesday, March 13th, 2024

The Savannah College of Art and Design's (SCAD) economic impact on Georgia has reached an all-time high, according to a study conducted by Tripp Umbach, the leading national consulting firm for not-for-profit, arts, and tourism sectors. In fiscal year 2023, SCAD generated $1.3 billion in annual economic impact for the state of Georgia, a 70% increase from the last report conducted for fiscal year 2019.

Tripp Umbach analyzed the economic impact of SCAD using the IMPLAN input-output model. Primary data collected from SCAD and the firm's benchmarking databases, developed over 30 years from experience with hundreds of similar studies, found SCAD has a tremendous and overwhelmingly positive influence on the vitality of the economy in the state through jobs, student and visitor spending, large investment into capital projects, operational spending, public events, alumni earning power, public safety, and charitable giving.

"In 1979, 71 students enrolled for SCAD's first academic year. Some 45 years later, SCAD has defied all odds and grown into the world's biggest and best university for creative professions, generating a monumental $1.3 billion annually for Georgia," SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace said. "Equally impressive is this data point: 74,000, the total number of SCAD students and alumni drawn to Georgia from every U.S. state and more than 120 nations to learn at the world's elite university for applied research and invention. SCAD Bees also join Georgia's workforce — in tech, entertainment, design, manufacturing, finance, health care, and more — leading and launching their own startups and providing employment for their neighbors."

SCAD is a private, nonprofit, accredited university, offering 100 academic degree programs to its more than 17,500 students across its locations in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia; Lacoste, France; and online via SCADnow. The university's mission is to prepare talented students for creative professions through engaged teaching and learning in a positively oriented university environment, positioning SCAD as the preeminent source of knowledge in the disciplines it teaches. Career preparation is woven into every fiber of the university, resulting in a superior alumni employment rate. According to a recent study of Spring 2022 SCAD graduates, 99% were employed, pursuing further education, or both within 10 months of graduation.

"Through creative business leadership, innovation, purposeful partnerships, service, and vibrant cultural events, SCAD is committed to advancing the prosperity of the state it calls home," SCAD Chief Financial Officer JJ Waller said. "We commissioned this report to really look at the hard data, and we are proud to see our university plays a major role in fueling the Savannah and Atlanta area economies."

SCAD employs more than 2,300 people and impacts more than 12,000 jobs across the state. Annual state and local government revenue attributable to the presence of SCAD totals more than $51 million. This is revenue collected by the government, in addition to that which is paid directly by the university, and includes taxes paid by employees, visitors to SCAD, and vendors who conduct business with SCAD. The university's festivals, screenings, museums, and galleries, all open to the public and emphasizing SCAD as a community-engaged institution, generate $127 million annually in tourism for Georgia.

SCAD has had a 45-year legacy of giving to the Savannah and Atlanta communities. Tripp Umbach estimates SCAD employees and students generated more than $38.5 million annually in charitable donations and volunteer services across Georgia. The university's SCAD SERVE initiative empowers the SCAD community to listen to the needs of its neighbors and local leaders and to create meaningful design solutions that improve quality of life. In fiscal year 2023, SCAD students, faculty, staff, and alumni worked with more than a dozen nonprofits through Design for Good courses and projects like Paint Our Parks (POP), a public art initiative beautifying basketball courts throughout the state; the university's tree-planting initiative, which has planted hundreds of mature trees in neighborhoods affected by tree inequity; and large food and clothing donations to organizations like America's Second Harvest.

Beyond its architectural and creative influence, the university has helped reduce crime and create safer communities. In fiscal year 2023, SCAD spent more than $14 million on security services in Savannah and Atlanta that benefit local residents, including ShotSpotter technology, thousands of strategically placed public- facing security cameras, and 24/7 security patrols. SCAD was the first university in the U.S. to use ShotSpotter technology and has implemented outdoor sensor technology in downtown and midtown Savannah.

The Tripp Umbach report also highlights SCAD's regional impacts on the university's hometowns of Savannah and Atlanta:


For more than 45 years, SCAD has helped change the face and future of Savannah. The university's economic impact on the Savannah area in fiscal year 2023 was $1 billion. This total represents the direct impact of spending in Savannah ($255.1 million) and indirect spending because of SCAD's presence ($744.9 million).

SCAD is one of the largest private employers in Savannah, and alumni have established more than 233 successful businesses in the Hostess City. SCAD's acquisition, restoration, and award- winning reuse of historic buildings and homes throughout Savannah has been a driving force behind Savannah's reputation as a place of architectural and cultural significance. The university's prominent faculty includes industry leaders from around the world who are recruited to SCAD to develop and deliver an innovative and professional curriculum that is recognized globally.

In addition to the nationally lauded, award-winning SCAD Museum of Art, the university enhances the regional tourism in the Coastal Empire by providing many cultural events for visitors. The SCAD Savannah Film Festival, SCAD Fashion shows, SCAD deFINE ART, SCADstyle, and the SCAD Sidewalk Arts Festival draw thousands of visitors to Savannah each year.


In Atlanta, SCAD's economic impact has more than doubled in the past four years. In fiscal year 2023, SCAD generated $328.5 million in total economic impact for Metro Atlanta. This total represents the direct impact of spending in Metro Atlanta ($115.9 million) and indirect spending because of SCAD's presence ($212.6 million). Enrollment at SCAD Atlanta has grown at rapid rates, from 77 students in 2005 to 3,200 in Fall 2023; enrollment rose by 8% for the 2023-24 academic year.

In fiscal year 2023, SCAD opened FORTY FIVE, a state-of-the- art residence hall, academic facility, theater space, and dynamic student life complex. The 14-story tower, totaling more than 556,000 square feet, represents the completion of the final phase of SCAD Atlanta's transformational development project in Midtown.

SCAD is proud to continue its legacy as one of Atlanta's premier cultural destinations with SCADshow, the university's world- class entertainment and performance venue boasting two state- of-the-art theater spaces. SCADshow presents a robust array of programming from signature university events, festivals, and performances, including SCAD TVfest, BAM! Black Artists in Music, SCAD AnimationFest, and more, open to the public year-round.

SCAD Atlanta is a leader and champion of the city's vibrant arts scene and home to the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, which offers diverse exhibitions, films, installations, and performances, inspiring museum visitors from around the world throughout the year. Recent exhibitions include Cristobal Balenciaga: Master of Tailoring; The Blonds: Glamour, Fashion, Fantasy; Ellen von Unwerth: This Side of Paradise; Madame Gres: The Art of Draping; and Christian Siriano: People Are People.

Key findings from the study are included below. For more information about SCAD's economic impact on Georgia and specifically in Savannah and Atlanta, the full report can be found at