The Billion-Dollar Impact

In remarks delivered before Idaho's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Jan. 25, 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. "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."

The nearly $1 billion figure comes from an economic impact study conducted for the University by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc., a Moscow-based company. The full report will be available later this spring.

Collaborations and Partnerships
Nellis said the statewide institution has been developing collaborations and partnerships with the private sector with an entrepreneurial spirit that is yielding results.
  • An operational service relationship agreement with the J.R. Simplot Company 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, 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.

This past year, the University generated more than $89 million in research funding, an increase of 7.5 percent over the prior year.
  • That’s nearly 74 percent of all research funding earned by Idaho public universities.
  • 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 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.

Budget Reductions
The University of Idaho addressed budget reductions that totaled more than $22 million during the past year. 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."

U-Idaho and the State’s Economy
The economic impact study found that the University plays a significant role in the state economy and is a sound investment from many perspectives:
  • graduates 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.
Other economic impact findings include:
  • 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 alumni, the increased output of businesses, and associated multiplier effects as monies ripple through the state's economy.