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NAU Dome

A shot overlooking NAU and the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome.

A first-of-its-kind study reveals that the economic and fiscal impacts of Arizona’s public universities total billions of dollars each year.

The Arizona Public University Enterprise, which includes Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, created more than 84,000 jobs, $4.6 billion in wages, $6 billion in value added and $11.1 billion in total economic output in the 2017 fiscal year, the study shows.

“Through education, research and service, Arizona’s public universities are fueling the state’s economy,” Arizona Board of Regents Executive Director John Arnold said in a statement. “The universities are also major employers in the state and spark significant business development, both of which contribute to the expansion of the state’s tax base.”

In the 2017 fiscal year, NAU contributed nearly 10,000 jobs, $228.6 million in wages and $90.3 million in economic impact from research.

“At our campuses throughout the state, NAU’s economic impact is on an upward trajectory," NAU President Rita Cheng said. "We create jobs, intellectual property, technology transfer and business incubation, and we educate and develop the sophisticated, high-level workforce that meets the demands of today’s industry.”

The report, detailing an independent economic and fiscal analysis performed by Elliott D. Pollack & Company and the Maguire Company, was presented to the Arizona Board of Regents at the ASU Tempe Campus last week.

Alan McGuire, president and principal economist of the Maguire Company, explained the economic benefits of the universities as a “classic multiplier effect.”

“When we spend money, other things happen,” he said at the meeting.

The report suggests that normal university operations result in essential statewide economic and fiscal impacts through direct employment and local spending by faculty and staff, students and university-related visitors.

Economic impacts included those generated by these individuals as well as construction activities and were analyzed according to employment, earnings, value added and economic output.

Students throughout the state spent a total of $2 billion on living expenses, resulting in 19,743 jobs. Just over 4,000 of those jobs were directly or indirectly generated in response to NAU student spending.

To calculate these jobs, students from each university were surveyed to determine their average monthly spending. NAU students’ average totaled $1,955 and ranked highest among the three universities overall, as well as in the categories of housing, groceries and personal services.

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Fiscal impacts, the various tax revenues generated by the universities, include property taxes as well as sales tax payments made by faculty and staff, students and visitors.

The university enterprise totaled $180 million in fiscal impact, with nearly $26 million resulting from NAU. Local governments received the largest portion of NAU’s fiscal contributions, followed by the state.

According to the report, Arizona’s public universities have been and will continue to be integral to diversifying the Arizona economy so it is less dependent on the traditional 5 C’s – copper, cattle, cotton, citrus and climate – that were essential to a workforce dependent on agriculture, ranching and mining.

As the three institutions continue to shape the future of the state and its inhabitants economically, they will also do so in areas not mentioned in this study.

“I am pleased that this report validates what our public university system has known for years – the results of our efforts affect the quality of life, health, education and economic outcomes of the State of Arizona,” Cheng said.

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Kaitlin Olson can be reached at the office at kolson@azdailysun.com or by phone at (928) 556-2253. 

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