Having a world-class university in our backyard is helping change the educational profile of the region.
University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings said having a more highly trained and educated workforce had important flow-on effects for the area.
"Around 109,000 students have graduated from the University of Wollongong and many have been the first in their family to study for a degree," he said.
"And we know that in the last 10 years alone, the proportion of people in the Illawarra with a degree has doubled.
"This provides a very big social contribution to the region as these people are going into education, into nursing, they're becoming doctors and a whole range of additional professions, as well as diffusing generally into the business community.
"This is all part of the added value of having a pretty large university sitting here with a main campus in Wollongong."
There's also the individual benefits of a university education. The dollar value of a UOW degree to graduates has been outlined in the new report UOW: Leading Locally, Competing Globally.
It shows that UOW degree holders can on average expect to earn around $740,000 more than their year 12 graduate counterparts over their working life.
"There's a dividend as a result of having a degree . . . which comes from that extra bit of earning you get as a result of going into a different type of job in the knowledge-based economy," Prof Wellings said.
"This study is the first time, certainly in Australia, that this knowledge component has been systematically measured."
According to the study, UOW graduates generate nearly $1 billion ($922 million) in extra net private earnings each year.
Increased government revenue from taxes on this extra income was estimated to be about $347 million.