FORT COLLINS, Colo. — On a cold winter day in Fort Collins, the sound of money keeps the ovens hot at Pizza Casbah.

"If it wasn’t for CSU being across the street, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we’re at today pretty much," said Pete Harvey, owner of Casbah Pizza. "College students live and die for pizza."

The restaurant near Colorado State University (CSU) credits the students for keeping them open 20 years. It’s just one business that’s benefited from the nearly $4 billion impact the four colleges and Universities in northern Colorado have had on the economy of Larimer and Weld counties.

Between CSU, University of Northern Colorado (UNC), Aims Community College and Front Range Community College, a new report released Tuesday shows one in eight jobs in northern Colorado is supported by higher education.

"The city and the town have grown up together," said CSU President Joyce McConnell. "Through that time CSU has contributed significantly to the economy." 

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The study examined the economic impact the colleges and universities had on Larimer and Weld counties during Fiscal Year 2017-18. 

The study shows the four schools added $1.1 billion in income to Larimer and Weld counties in 2017 and 2018. 

All that construction you see around campus, that totaled up to $126 million the same year. 

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Spending by students totaled up to nearly $148 million in one year.

"We think about oil and gas, we hear about agriculture, but education is such a vital part of the economic vitality of northern Colorado," said UNC President Andrew Feinstein.

Take a drive north up Interstate 25 and you’ll see nothing but houses sprouting from fields. But it’s not just cheaper land and tons of space fueling the population boom north of Denver. It’s also education.

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"Students, when they graduate, are staying and working in the area, so that’s helping the regional economy even more," said Susan Hackett, an economist with EMSI, the group that conducted the study. 

So when it comes to growth in Colorado, it’s not just housing and development driving the boom. It’s also the books, the jobs, and yes, all that pizza students buy.

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