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UA has $1.8 billion impact, report says

By Erin Mahoney
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 30, 1999

The UA contributes $1.86 billion annually to Pima County's economy, according to a study released yesterday, but officials say that number may not reflect all benefits the school gives to the community.

"Educational institutions provide the primary mechanism for upward mobility," University of Arizona President Peter Likins told about 200 members of the Tucson business community yesterday. "That may be the greatest economic impact at the University of Arizona. You don't see that in the numbers."

The study, which is based on data from the 1997-1998 fiscal year, was presented to Tucson business leaders at a luncheon at the Westin La Paloma Resort.

The research was conducted by Alberta Charney, a research specialist from UA's Eller College of Business and Public Administration, and Vera Pavlakovich from the Office of Economic Development.

Bruce Wright, UA associate vice president of economic development, said the university downplayed the results of the study.

"We use conservative assumptions and conservative methodology," Wright said. "We want to be able to defend the estimates we present."

The results are an increase from the numbers presented in the last study, which reported an impact of $1.7 billion during the 1994-1995 fiscal year.

The new study reports that student spending created 17,601 jobs and $146 million in wages and sales, a fact that Wright said is crucial.

"The real impact is created by our students," he said.

He added that the numbers from this fiscal year would have been much higher, due to higher student enrollment, more construction and the addition of the Science and Technology Research Park.

Charney said the study had a "narrow scope" because it focused purely on economic impacts.

"It's important that they (Tucson taxpayers) understand the university is a partner in the community," she added.

The study reported that, for every dollar the UA receives in state-appropriated funds, the university generates about $6 for the community.

Wright said the average for publicly funded institutions in the United States is about $4.

Wright added that the UA's total contribution is significantly higher than that of Northern Arizona University, which reports a $700 million contribution to its community. Arizona State University is still compiling their report.

"In any Wall Street analysis, that would be a good return on an investment," he said.

Wright said the UA's community contribution is comparable to that of Harvard University, which reports about a $2 billion return.

"It validates our methodology and analysis because they're very close," he said.

Likins said that he was proud of the numbers, but that economic contributions are "a byproduct" of other university benefits.

While teaching and research at the UA are the areas that generate money for the community, Likins siad the benefits of the university go far beyond economic contributions.

"Our success depends on the intellectual capability of our society," he said. "We've got to learn how to grow our own."

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