UH economic impact put above $3.6 billion a year

Updated: Apr. 16, 2013 at 6:10 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - 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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