COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio’s 14 public universities are supporting thousands of jobs and building the state’s economy, a new study shows.

“We can only be successful when we have a strong commitment by the legislature and by state government to support public institutions,” Senator Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) said.

“We will not be able to sustain and grow our economy if we do not make heavy investments into higher education,” Representative Tom Young (R-Washington Township) said,

The independent study done on behalf of the Inter-University Council of Ohio analyzes the economic impact of the state’s 14 public institutions in 2021-2022 and shows one in eight jobs are supported by the universities, with a total economic impact of $68.9 billion.

“As our graduates earn more, they will pay more in taxes throughout their working lives,” President of Miami University Gregory Crawford said. “And since more than 70% of graduates of Ohio’s public institutions stay in our great state, they will generate significant revenue for the state of Ohio.”

Senator George Lang (R-West Chester) said Ohio wants more students staying in the state. Lang acknowledged that students do care about social issues, but pointed to socially conservative states like Florida and Utah that are growing in population, citing their tax policies and job opportunities for the boost.

“I am confident that within ten years we are going to see less than 10% of Ohio college graduates leaving Ohio because we are going to have the economic dreams and opportunities for them here,” Lang said.

Lawmakers agree it is important to keep building on the state’s momentum.

“We need to use this study as a springboard for how we make better policy to support our public universities,” Hicks-Hudson said.

“The base is there; the energy is there,” Young said. “We have to make the commitment to get to be number one.”

State’s budget also heavily invests in higher education as the economic impact from public institutions represents 8.8% of Ohio’s total gross product.