A large university in a small
state, the University of Hawaii occupies a central role in Hawaii's society and
culture. But what is its economic impact? Can it be expressed in dollars? Yes,
a new study says, and it's billions.
The bottom line was $3.61 billion for the last completed
fiscal year, through last June 30, according a report released Tuesday by the
UH Economic Research Organization. UHERO estimates that UH represents 4 percent
of Hawaii's gross domestic product.
The university spent $2.32 billion in that fiscal year, most
of it, $1.84, within the state. That includes $590 million in wages
earned by UH employees, but the report said every $1 million UH spends
generates 15 jobs when indirect spending is reckoned. Indirect spending
includes goods and service provided to UH by the private sector.
"Each dollar of state general fund spending on UH translates
into $9.61 of total business sales, $2.91 of employee earnings, and 52 cents of
state taxes in Hawaii," UHERO reported. "For every dollar of state funds spent
on UH, the university system was able to leverage an additional $4.90 of
spending in the state."
The University of Hawaii has four campuses with four-year
programs and six community colleges, and annual enrollment tops 60,000. Five
out of six UH students are local and more than half identify themselves as
Asian, Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. The average student spends more than
$25,000 a year, including almost $8,000 on housing and $4,000 on food.
The report did not attempt to estimate how many local
residents might move to other states were they not students at UH, or how their
spending might differ if they remained Hawaii residents without going to
college. It also did not address whether UH could produce any greater impact
through any changes to organization and management structure.
The system offers more than 600 academic programs including
53 doctoral programs and gets $20 million in outside funding, mostly tied to
research programs. UH legal and business programs are known for their PacRim
specialties, while the astronomy program at the Hilo campus is known for
hands-on experience with the Mauna Kea summit observatories.
Although Hawaii is also home to Hawaii Pacific University, a
campus of Brigham Young University, Chaminade University and other schools, the
state university system dominates continuing education in the state, and
leaders of the business community have often said that UH is essential to
producing local talent for highly skilled jobs.
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