EDITORIAL: Students and local commerce

Right down the street from campus, we have begun to see tangible evidence of the toll the economy has taken on the town, most notably in the scattering of empty storefronts along Lancaster Avenue. 

It’s difficult to gauge how much student spending contributes to local commerce, according to an article in “The Annals of Regional Science,” which offered an explanation for the problem of accurately determining how the expenditure of college students impacts a local economy — namely, the great variance in student spending patterns. 

A Lower Merion Township retail recruiter granted that Villanova students help certain restaurants in Bryn Mawr. An employee at the Ardmore Initiative told The Villanovan, “Our college population comes in at 11 p.m. and is gone by 2 a.m.” While an insinuation that students only contribute to local commerce through neighborhood bars doesn’t sound like a fair statement, hesitance to acknowledge student contributions is not necessarily unfounded — the above referenced article states that even statistical analyses of student expenditure may produce over-estimations, so we may think we contribute more than we do. Even if students have not provided tremendous support to local businesses in the past, in a time of economic woes, the mixed relationship Villanova has with its neighbors could potentially stand in the way of some resolution to the struggles of the local storeowners. 

Many students rightfully have the impression that Radnor and Lower Merion townships believe that they would be better off if the University wasn’t here at all. Either way, neither we nor the neighbors is going anywhere, so we might as well take the opportunity to help each other out. Student spending, especially since this amount is hard to determine, won’t provide a solution to the financial woes of nearby storeowners, but it could provide some support, at least. By seeking input from the Villanova community — which also constitutes faculty and staff, many of whom live right on the Main Line, new businesses could prosper. At the same time, many of us can opt to take a walk down Lancaster Avenue on a nice day to do some shopping, rather than take the drive which we so often do to King of Prussia or Suburban Square.