A popular misconception is that universities cost states money. This leads to the belief that cutting investment dollars to state universities automatically saves the state and the taxpayer money. But, more detailed views reveal something else entirely. This geographic representation [see: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zJDEtBv8dnZY.kB2wAkjG6LEE] allows you to pick a university from the interactive map to link to economic reports that define how universities act as critical economic engines. This map helps demonstrate how universities don’t “cost” states nearly as much as they offer. As you will see, for example, for every $1 invested, states often get estimated returns on the $1 that are well over 10x that amount.

Interactive Map: Universities as Economic Engines

INTERACTIVE MAP: Universities and Colleges as Economic Engines: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zJDEtBv8dnZY.kB2wAkjG6LEE

So, find your local, or regional university. Study the numbers. And then tell everyone you know just how your local university is actually a regional economic engine that supports employment, offers significant returns on state investment, generates tax dollars for the state, and produces graduates that start regional businesses, etc. Because most “States Are Still Funding Higher Education Below Pre-Recession Levels”: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=4135.

These impact reports represent estimates based on the complex roles that universities play across city, state, and regional levels. The levels of detail in these reports vary as does what each report measures. And there are some interesting current debates about how such impact measures should be made more uniform (*1, *2, *3). But, what is clear is that these reports and estimates show how universities play many more integrated, critical, and revenue generating roles than most of the public (and even academics) realize. For example:

Did you know that universities actually generate tax revenue?

Did you know that average returns on state investments typically yield 10x plus returns on that investment?

Did you know that universities often represent states and cities top nonfederal employers?

Did you know that universities regularly attract out-of-state dollars that wouldn’t exist without them?

Did you ever study how much revenue that universities generate based on their research activities and their collaborative ventures with private industries?

Did you ever consider how many businesses that university graduates start after they graduate?

These reports estimate numbers like this and more. Like a curated wiki, my hope is that I can build and update this interactive map with your help. If you have a suggestion, an updated link, etc. please send me that information at my non-work related email account: zolaloza@gmail.com.

Now, get out there and talk with friends and family about our universities in richer and more complex ways! Talk about not just the inputs and costs, but the outputs and revenues. Talk about all of this, in addition to the many other social contributions, such as helping students discover their passion and potential, etc.

Thank you! And enjoy!

*For more on the current debates surrounding economic impact studies of universities -see:

1. Duy, T. (2015). The Economic Impact of the University of Oregon A Comprehensive Revision. The University of Oregon Files, January 2015. Retrieved from: http://around.uoregon.edu/sites/around1.uoregon.edu/files/field/image/impactstudy.pdf.

2. Ambargis, Z., Mead, C., and Rzeznik. S (2014). University Contribution Studies Using Input-Output Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2014. Retrieved from: https://www.bea.gov/papers/pdf/BEAWP_UniversityContributionStudiesIO_022014.pdf.

3. Swenson, D. (2012). Measuring University Contributions to Regional Economies: A Discussion of Guidelines for Enhancing Credibility, June 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.econ.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/publications/papers/p13992-2011-08-08.pdf.


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