University Research Boosts Arizona’S Economy

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Research at Arizona’s three public universities injected more than $1 billion into the state’s economy last year, according a report released by the Arizona Board of Regents.

The report attempted to quantify not only research spending, but the economic, social and scholarly impact of that research.

“Research at Arizona’s public universities provides an enormous benefit to our community and the world around us,” said Regent Rick Myers, chair of the Arizona Board of Regents. “Not only are millions of dollars reinvested annually into our economy, but the body of knowledge created by university research translates directly to inventions, patents and start-up companies, all of which fuel the private sector and translate into high-paying, high-skill jobs.

Two years ago, the Arizona Board of Regents promised the Legislature to better measure what the universities produce.

Gov. Jan Brewer this year proposed an end to three years of deep cuts in state support for the universities. Her budget included $58 million in additional funding for the three universities, with Arizona State University getting the lion’s share to make up for higher previous per-student support for the University of Arizona, with its expensive medical and science programs.

Gov. Brewer’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal represents an 8 percent increase. The budget would devote a quarter of the statewide operating budget increase to the universities.

If the Legislature accepts Gov. Brewer’s budget plan for the universities, it would presumably boost prospects for a 6,000-student campus in Payson, since it would reverse years of deep cuts in university operating funds and state support.

The Board of Regents has projected a need to nearly double the number of college degrees the system produces by about 2020.

Recently released figures showed that although state support for the universities has decreased sharply in the past several years, enrollment continues to climb. This fall enrollment jumped by 2 percent at ASU, 6 percent at Northern Arizona University and 3 percent at the University of Arizona.

The number of bachelor’s degrees awarded jumped by 7 percent and the number of community college transfers increased by 6 percent — both key measures of efficiency demanded by the Legislature.

Meanwhile, spending on research rose 17 percent at ASU and 8 percent systemwide to nearly $2 billion.

Tuition now stands at $9,700 at ASU, $9,200 at NAU and $10,000 at U of A, a steep rise from several years ago.

The Board of Regents “enthusiastically” supported Brewer’s proposal to increase both university funding and accept federal funding to expand eligibility for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment Act as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Researchers from ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business estimated that expanding AHCCCS would by 2016 increase the state’s job rolls by 15,419 and the gross state product by $1.4 billion — while increasing state revenues by $50 million.

The study on the economic impact of university research represented an early effort to respond to Gov. Brewer’s demand that the universities produce a better way to measure both their efficiency and the state’s return on its investment.

In 2012, Arizona’s three public universities brought in more than $1 billion in research expenditures. Research activity also directly resulted in 15 different start-up companies, nearly 400 invention disclosures, 47 U.S. patents issued, and public-private partnerships which will help fuel Arizona’s economy going forward.

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