The University of Arizona is providing a major benefit to the bottom line of Arizona businesses and organizations, according to a study commissioned by the Arizona Board of Regents. The results illustrate the true economic impact a public university can have, ranging from dollars spent by visitors to the economic benefits of the jobs and research the school supports.
The overall numbers paint a powerful economic picture. The research, from Scottsdale-based Elliott D. Pollack & Company and The Maguire Company Inc. in Phoenix, suggests the University of Arizona's economic impact for fiscal year 2017 topped $4.1 billion.
"This impact certainly raises the economic prosperity of Southern Arizona," said Larry Penley, chair of the Arizona Board of Regents. "But the university's land-grant responsibilities extend that impact throughout the state."
The researchers broke down the UA's economic impact into several categories.
Among the biggest drivers of the multibillion-dollar impact is the university's research enterprise. The study pegs UA research spending at $622.2 million, ranking it 21st among all public universities in the United States. Research spending accounts for nearly one-third of total expenditures at the UA.
The reach of research dollars spans well beyond university labs. As the university spends money on equipment, supplies, contracts and more, it benefits Arizona's economy and sparks further activity. The study estimates the economic output in the state as the result of the UA's research at more than $1 billion, ranking it first among Arizona's public universities.
Student, Faculty and Staff Spending
Students also play a big part in creating the university's economic footprint. According to the ABOR study, the UA's graduate and undergraduate student base, which it lists as 38,138, generated $779.1 million in economic output and supported 5,212 direct and indirect jobs, thanks to spending on everything from housing and utilities to groceries and vehicle maintenance.
For their part, the UA's approximately 15,000 faculty and staff members helped pump $701.4 million into the economy, supporting 3,910 jobs through their personal expenditures.
Tens of millions of dollars of the UA's economic impact originate from outside the borders of the university and the state. The researchers estimate the University of Arizona drew 135,380 out-of-state visitors in fiscal year 2017 through sporting events, campus tours, family visits, conferences and more. The report suggests those visitors generated $60.5 million in economic impact and supported 699 jobs.
Construction totals can be hard to average, according to the study, because projects can vary greatly from year to year. For fiscal year 2017, the study estimated that UA projects resulted in a $221.8 million economic impact, supporting a total of 1,570 jobs.
The 'True' Impact
In all, the report suggests the Arizona public university system supported about 84,000 jobs and generated an economic impact of around $11.1 billion.
“I am thrilled that these numbers convey how the University of Arizona helps drive economic prosperity in this great state,” said UA President Robert C. Robbins. “This impact reflects a better quality of life for Arizonans through the vital contributions made every day by our faculty, staff, students and alumni who shape workforce and innovation across Arizona.”
The true economic impact of the University of Arizona extends well beyond the numbers in the report, the researchers say. What the report does not measure is the effect the university has on Arizona's future workforce and entrepreneurship climate. Additionally, the companies that put together the report say they used methodology to ensure they would be more likely to slightly underestimate the impact of the university than to overestimate it.
"Beyond its significant economic impact are the university's contributions to Arizona's labor force and technology innovation," Penley said. "The University of Arizona's graduates provide a highly skilled workforce in an era when jobs increasingly are demanding complex skills beyond high school. Its intensive research mission drives our economy with innovations that lead to new businesses and more jobs."