By ED SOUTHORN
SOUTHERN Cross University's Tweed campus contributes more than $12 million a year to the Tweed economy.
And the financial contribution of the fast growing campus is forecast to more than triple to $38 million by 2010.
The figures, based on student expenditure, are contained in a study commissioned by the Tweed Economic Development Corporation to assist informed debate about SCU's Tweed campus expansion plans.
Tweed Shire Council administrators have approved public exhibition until November 17 of a proposed expansion for the Tweed campus currently being considered by the NSW Government.
The expansion features a six-storey building near Brett Street, Tweed Heads, linked to the current SCU campus, and a possible future six storey building on shire-owned land on the corner of Wharf and Brett Streets in front of the Tweed Heads Civic Centre.
The two buildings are estimated to cost about $93 million.
SCU Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Clark said there were no guarantees the Tweed campus would expand on its current site.
Prof Clark said other possible expansion sites in Tweed Shire, and at Gold Coast Airport, were also being considered and a final decision was required within the next few months in order for SCU to accommodate growth.
TEDC chief Tom Senti said the forecast of a $17.97 million contribution to the Tweed economy by 2008 and a $38.21 million contribution by 2010 were based on the 47 per cent proportion of local resident students, excluding the balance living on the Gold Coast.
Mr Senti said the Tweed campus was vital to help sustain the Tweed economy and Tweed Shire could not afford to lose such a valuable economic driver.
The TEDC study estimates total employment numbers for the Tweed campus operation and generated by student expenditure will rise from 104 full-time equivalent positions in 2005 to 129 in 2008 and 217 in 2010.
SCU has advised Tweed Shire it will need 12,000 square metres of campus space by 2012, four times the current space.
The Tweed campus currently has 1000 students. Student numbers have doubled since the campus opened in 2001 and will double again by 2010, according to SCU.
"Over the past two years, the Tweed economy has reflected an average 3.5 per cent population growth, but negative business growth and static job growth," Mr Senti said.
"The expansion of SCU supports the need to broaden the Tweed's economic base, away from dependence on the population-driven, 88 per cent serviced-based economy with an ageing demographic."