Arizona's public universities a BOOM for the state

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

According to a first-of-its-kind analysis, Arizona's public universities were responsible for 102,000 jobs and $11.1 billion in total economic impact during fiscal year 2015. This new study demonstrates the powerful economic engine that is the Arizona university system.

Benefiting the state of Arizona through the universities' impact is part of the Arizona Board of Regent's strategic plan to achieve targeted and measured outcomes by 2025.  "Impact Arizona" is one of the board's four primary goals, in addition to promoting student success and learning; advancing educational attainment in Arizona; and expanding research. As we worked to define how we calculate the impact of our universities, we started by measuring our most important assets: the people who live, work and study here. 

This analysis marks the first time that each of Arizona's three public universities has completed an economic impact study at the same time using the same methodology. The economic impact captures not just the direct spending of the universities, staff, students and visitors but also the indirect and induced effect of those expenditures on the local economy. In other words, the purchases of goods and services by the universities, staff, students and visitors then become income to those who provide them. 

States often cite the economic impact of big-ticket sporting events after hosting a venue. Consider this - the statewide economic impact from the 2015 Super Bowl in Glendale was $719 million - dollars that would not have come to our state without the big game. Likewise, our universities pumped $11.1 billion into our state last year - dollars that would not have fueled the economy without the very existence of our institutions. Our universities are long-term, economic mainstays that continue to spur growth in our state's economy and should truly be a point of pride for all Arizonans.  To quantify our impact in terms of the big game -- it is like having a Super Bowl about every three weeks in Arizona for a year. As the great Super Bowl winning coach John Madden would say ... BOOM!


This analysis did not account for every possible economic impact. For example, there are multiple spin-off businesses created by faculty, staff and students through their own efforts or as a result of university research. Additionally, there are the earnings of university graduates, which were estimated at $13.2 billion in Arizona in 2012. Finally, there are the economic contributions of the many companies that locate in Arizona to be near our universities for the workforce we provide or to tap into our research and development firepower. In the coming months, we will publish our new Wages of Graduates report and conduct additional analysis on the many ripple effects of our primary economic impact indicators to further quantify the broad economic benefit provided by Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona.  

These economic impact numbers demonstrate loudly and clearly why we're making the case every day for state support of our public universities as a sound investment. Funding higher education is not a zero-sum game.  It is a winning proposition not only for our students, but for the entire state, which benefits greatly from the tremendous and long-term economic impact of our universities.