D.C.’s universities contribute $11.3 billion to the local economy, making them the city’s largest private employer, according to a study released this month by a local education consortium.

The report, produced by the non-profit Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, represents an institutional response to persistent criticism of some local universities for their perceived encroachment on surrounding communities.

Local merchants have complained that American University is crowding them out of Tenleytown. Some residents of Georgetown have organized against the growing number of Georgetown U. students residing off campus.

Each community, of course, arguably owes some of its lustre (and property value) to the presence of the university; there is a reason why college towns are desirable addresses.

The new study attempts to put those contributions in more concrete terms.

The consortium’s 14 member universities employ 68,117 and spend a combined $3 billion annually. That spending supports another 124,895 jobs and generates another $3.6 billion in revenue, the study says.

Georgetown and George Washington universities are the region’s top private employers, respectively. Howard University ranks fourth, American University sixth, Catholic University eighth. (Washington Hospital Center, GU Hospital, Fannie Mae, Providence Hospital and Howard U. Hospital round out the top 10.)

Of the 85,202 students enrolled in consortium universities, 90 percent came from outside D.C. More than 100,000 alumni have settled in the area after graduation, contributing to the region’s claim as the nation’s best-educated metropolis.

And local college students devote more than 600,000 hours annually to public service.