The University of Connecticut, one of many public research schools across the country facing lower government funding, released a report Tuesday saying it generates about $5.3 billion for the state of Connecticut each year.
The internal economic impact study looked at everything from the jobs and new businesses spawned by the school’s research, to the medical care provided at UConn Health, to the effect the school has on nearby restaurants and vendors at its campuses.
“Every research university does some type of study of this kind,” said Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for the Association of American Universities. “In some cases it’s mandated by the state so the state can say, ‘This is what we’re getting as a return on our investment.’” It’s so people can get an idea that these institutions are huge economic drivers.”
A similar study done in 2014 put the school’s economic impact at $3.4 billion.
The latest study found that the school was responsible either directly on indirectly for close to 26,000 jobs in the state and $277.5 million in tax revenue.
The school said it is using the report as a baseline for new President Thomas Katsouleas, who has said increasing the school’s revenues, especially in research dollars, is among his top priorities.
But it also is meant to give the school leverage when negotiating its block grant from the state legislature.
“The more we can grow revenues, add students add research, the bigger impact we have,” Katsouleas said.
The state grant to UConn of just under $329 million now accounts for about 26% of revenue in the school’s operating budget. That is down from 40% twenty years ago.
Tuition and fees now account for 41% of UConn’s revenue, with the rest coming from other sources, such as research grants and philanthropy, according to the university.
It’s not a problem unique to Connecticut. Funding for public two- and four-year colleges across the nation in the 2017-18 school year was more than $7 billion below its 2008 level, adjusted for inflation, according to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Tuition at four-year public colleges rose 36% over that same period, according to that organization.
Many legislative Republicans have been critical of UConn’s calls to avoid state cuts, noting the school has promised free tuition to lower-income students, built a new recreation center and recently purchased a $740,000 house for Katsouleas.
State Senate Republican leader Len Fasano called the study “self serving.”
“I don’t think anybody argues that UConn isn’t good for the state,” Fasano said. “But when we ask UConn to be more expeditious with their money, they shouldn’t get all upset about that. To say, ‘We’re doing well, give me more money,’ I don’t think is a healthy argument for the state.”
UConn has set up a website to tout the economic impact report. It includes an interactive map that will show residents how many UConn students, faculty, staff and alumni live in each of the state’s 169 cities and towns, the average financial aid those students receive from the school and the number of visits town residents make to UConn Health facilities.
Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, said he will push to make sure UConn does not see its block grant cut and has the money it needs from the state to complete planning construction projects on its campuses.
“We want to educate people for a 21st century work force,” Lamont said. “We also want to educate good people and hopefully engaged citizens. And that’s the broader picture of what the economic impact means of a UConn.”
See the report and the impact by town here.