Never underestimate the power of a few colleges and universities to make a community more interesting, in addition to playing a key role as importers of young people as a counterbalance to an aging demographic.
The University of Pittsburgh this year produced a thrilling backyard football brawl with neighbor West Virginia University, in addition to providing new tools to help nurses and novel thinking on issues of race.
Carnegie Mellon University went in with Pitt on a project to help develop the world's largest synoptic survey telescope. But this is a business section, so maybe our readers were more impressed that CMU's tech skills made it a stop on billionaire geek Bill Gates' farewell tour before he steps down from his Microsoft job.
In a commentary published by the Post-Gazette, Mr. Gates offered this thought: "One of the striking things about human progress is that so many of the world's most important new ideas were the work of young people."
That's what lures employers to the area every year in search of bright new recruits and keeps economic development officials ever hopeful that research and energy generated on campuses will produce successful new businesses.
Educating all those young people added up to significant revenues, based on information supplied by the colleges and universities of Western Pennsylvania. The revenue totals included tuition payments as well as fees, grants and endowment earnings.
The University of Pittsburgh at $1.59 billion and CMU with $761 million -- both in Oakland -- ranked last year as the biggest players in a diverse field.
The next tier down started with Duquesne University, at $229.7 million, in third and Indiana University of Pennsylvania fourth with $216.7 million in revenues. Other academic institutions in the region ranged in revenue from almost $30 million to just under $125 million.
Just as the institutions vary widely in size and academic focus, a college tour of those on the list would find an array of choices from the urban campus of Point Park University to suburban La Roche College to the small-town ambience of a Westminster College.
Plus, the region can boast that one of its schools, Grove City College, ranked fifth last year among the Top 20 "Stone Cold Sober" schools, according to Princeton Review, a New York company that may be better known for offering test preparation courses and educational services.
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Teresa F. Lindeman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 412-263-2018.