COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Thousands of college students are coming back to Mid-Missouri this week, along with the extra money they pump into the local economy.
Move-in at the University of Missouri began Wednesday morning and will continue Thursday. Classes start Monday. The return of students means extra traffic during move-in and extra money for the local economy.
MU helps educate the workforce and is one of the state's largest employers. More than 30% of its degrees are awarded in STEM and health fields. The school is also the biggest employer in Boone County, followed by MU Health Care.
Students and their families also help fill shops, restaurants and bars in Columbia. The operations of the MU campus alone generate an extra $5 billion per year statewide, according to a UM System report, and a chunk of that money goes to local businesses.
Stefan Shefield, the store manager at Slackers, says anytime students return to campus he knows the posters he sells won't last very long.
"We sell out of posters, like, immediately, as soon as the students start coming back, so I have to start thinking about putting in big poster orders," Shefield said.
Rally House's manager in training, Jordan Elliott, says they're happy to say goodbye to slower summer days and welcome back thousands of students, which Elliot says has already started happening.
"They come in here and stop and they kind of shop in the Mizzou section and getting ready for back to school. I think our sales have actually been a lot better now than it has been in the summer," Elliot said.
And it's not just downtown businesses seeing a boost. Megan McConachie with Columbia's Convention and Visitors Bureau says after almost two years hotel industries are starting to see improvement.
McConachie says the hotel business went from occupancy levels of 40-50 percent during COVID.
In 2022, hotels have now posted four straight months of 60 percent occupancy this year.
Students at other institutions of higher education will also be returning to Mid-Missouri this week. Lincoln University, Westminster College, William Woods University and Stephens College will all welcome students back this week.