A Near Billion Dollar Impact: University of Idaho's Nellis Talks Economic Impact and Development, Research Growth During Legislative Presentation

Monday, January 25 2010

Written by Tania Thompson

BOISE, Idaho – In remarks delivered today before Idaho's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, University of Idaho President Duane Nellis put the land-grant institution's bottom line before lawmakers: the University of Idaho contributes nearly $1 billion to the state's economy.

"That's 1.9 percent of total state economy," said Nellis, who has been stressing the importance of higher education to the state's economy and recovery. "Higher education is even more important to Idaho when the state is facing economic difficulties. …This is an impressive figure and it demonstrates the beneficial impact that we have on Idaho's economy."

Nellis is among the state's college and university presidents who will appear this week before JFAC.

Economic Modeling Specialists Inc., a Moscow-based company, conducted the economic impact study for the university. The full report will be available later this spring, but Nellis brought top-level impact figures to lawmakers today.

Nellis said the statewide institution has been developing collaborations and partnerships with the private sector with an entrepreneurial spirit that is yielding results. An example is the operational service relationship agreement with the J.R. Simplot Company that will enable the university to continue research at its Parma Research and Extension Center, while giving Simplot benefits from activity at the center.

At the Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho Falls, Nellis said, the University of Idaho, with research partners at Boise State, Idaho State and the Idaho National Laboratory, leveraged a $1.6 million investment from the state and brought in more than $13 million in additional funding from other sources.

"As with many other research programs, this is money that was new to Idaho’s economy," Nellis said.

Research activity at the University of Idaho continues to increase. This past year, Nellis reported, the university generated more than $89 million in research funding, an increase of 7.5 percent over the prior year. Research funding generated by the University of Idaho constitutes about 74 percent of all research funding earned by Idaho public universities. During the same time period, total sponsored activity at the university topped $129 million over the previous year; that's roughly 70 percent of all sponsored funding brought in by Idaho's public universities. Total sponsored activity is defined as the total of all activity funded by outside sponsors, whether it's for research or some other program for which there is an expectation on the part of the sponsor for performance, deliverables or outcomes.

During his presentation, Nellis also outlined how the University of Idaho addressed budget reductions that totaled more than $22 million during the past year through managing with reduced resources. It enacted travel and hiring freezes, deferred maintenance and equipment acquisition and restructured, eliminated or consolidated programs.

"The University of Idaho is stewarding our state’s resources well, with perseverance, hard work and focus," Nellis said. "But we also must keep our eye on the prize: to provide the very best that American public higher education can offer to our students, to our state, and to advance the issues of our world. We will win in the race to do our very best on behalf of those we serve."

The economic impact study found that the university plays a significant role in the state economy and is a sound investment from many perspectives: students benefit from improved lifestyles and increased earnings; taxpayers benefit from a larger economy and lower social costs; and the state as a whole benefits from increased job and investment opportunities, higher business revenues, greater availability of public funds and an eased tax burden. Included among the initial findings shared with lawmakers:

• The activities of the university and its alumni comprise nearly 2 percent – roughly $934 million – of the total Idaho economy.

• Idaho's economy receives roughly $182.2 million in added income each year due to the University of Idaho's payroll – faculty and staff – and to the University's spending for supplies and figures.

• In terms of research dollars, University of Idaho expenditures of over $90 million reported in 2009 to the National Science Foundation detail how much the university actually spent on research to support its research enterprise, like the purchase of new equipment and the payment of salaries that support its research.

• University of Idaho graduates enjoy an 18 percent rate of return on their educational investment; they recover all costs – including wages foregone – in less than eight years.

• Thousands of University of Idaho alumni live and work in Idaho. Their accumulated contributions to the state's economy – as employees, business owners, consumers and in other roles – amounts to approximately $715 million. This represents the sum of higher earnings to University of alumni, the increased output of businesses and associated multiplier effects as monies ripple through the state's economy.
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About the University of Idaho

Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.