WORCESTER, Mass. - College students are beginning to move back to Worcester for the upcoming fall semester, and the economic benefits of their arrival has local businesses excited.

What You Need To Know

  • Roughly 30,000 college students will arrive in Worcester over the coming weeks

  • Many local businesses rely on them for employment and sales

  • A recent report by AICU Mass estimates independent colleges in central Massachusetts have an annual economic impact of $3.8 billion

  • Alice Lombardi, owner of Bean Counter Cafe, said 75% of her employees are college students

More than 1,300 Worcester Polytechnic Institute first year students took part in a time-honored tradition on Tuesday, crossing the Earle Bridge as a symbolic entry into WPI.

The class of 2027 will soon be joined by thousands of other college students throughout Worcester, and their impact runs much deeper than move-in day traffic.

“Having 30,000 college students back is a shot in the arm for the local economy, particularly our retailers and our restaurants,” said Tim Murray, president & CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

A short walk from the WPI campus, the Bean Counter Cafe typically sees quiet summers - a time to take a deep breath, said owner Alice Lombardi. As students begin to unpack and settle in, it’s a sure sign those dog days are just about over.

“Saturday we had a group of 40 people, and I think they were all students,” Lombardi said. “Everyone getting drinks, and just getting to know the area.”

Central Massachusetts colleges and their students are vital for the local economy. According to a report by AICU Mass, the $3.8 billion annual economic impact of their eight member schools alone in the region equates to 18,800 jobs.

Lombardi knows the value of college students - they account for 75% of her employees.

“They're great because they're bright and really eager to do things,” Lombardi said. “It’s really nice to have young people who really are open minded, not just doing something to get it done. A lot of them are very interested in learning about the products we’re selling, the service we provide and the community.”

In a post-pandemic economy where some business owners might complain of younger people not wanting to work anymore, Lombardi’s Bean Counter Cafe hasn’t had any trouble. She credits the success to a willingness to meet her employees in the middle.

“The thing we have to do as business owners is really adapt to our employees’ schedules,” Lombardi said. “For retention purposes, you really want to make sure you accommodate as much as you can and the ability to provide opportunity to hardworking college students allows us to have a nice group of employees we can always call on.”