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Academy of Art University: $579 million economic impact in Bay Area

The San Francisco-based Academy of Art University generated an economic impact of $579 million last year in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, up from $500 million in 2009, the for-profit school said Tuesday.

A model walks the runway at an Academy of Art University fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

Of the $579 million, $316 million represented spending by on-campus students, the school said, while spending by the school accounted for $263 million.

Elisa Stephens, president of the university since 1992 and granddaughter of its founder, said in a news release: “The success of the academy is a reflection of the success our students are having at getting jobs in their field of study and the end result is a win for all involved -- the Bay Area, the business community and Academy of Art University students.”

Federal data cited by The Huffington Post show the university posted revenue of more than $247 million in 2009-10, up from $59 million a decade earlier.

The university said it added 294 jobs from 2007 to 2011, an increase of 14 percent. The school now employs more than 2,300 faculty and staff.

With more than 18,000 students enrolled last year (11,600 on-campus and 6,600 online), the Academy of Art University is the fourth largest university in the Bay Area. A recent school master plan foresees a student population of nearly 25,000 within five years, according to The Huffington Post.

Founded in 1929, the academy is the country’s largest private art and design university; it offers associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 21 majors. The university, owned by the Stephens Institute, occupies 40 buildings and 17 academic offices in downtown San Francisco. The school has come under fire for gobbling up downtown real estate.

The economic impact report was prepared by Capitol Public Finance Group LLC.


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