University of Arizona campus

Economic activity generated by Arizona’s universities is responsible for $500 million in tax revenue, the study found.

Arizona’s three public universities were responsible for an economic output across the state of $11.1 billion and more than 84,000 jobs during fiscal year 2017.

This is according to the latest independent economic and fiscal impact study prepared for the Arizona Board of Regents by Elliot D. Pollack & Co., a Scottsdale consulting firm, in cooperation with The Maguire Co., an economic analysis and public policy consulting firm in Phoenix. It was presented to the board Thursday at its meeting in Tempe.

The analysis calculated the overall economic and fiscal impacts of the annual university operations, of the impacts of university spending, of employee and student spending, the impacts of out-of-state visitor spending and research spending of the universities, according to the study summary.

The study does not calculate any economic activity generated by university alumni.

Study authors calculated the more than $11 billion economic output by adding spending by students, university employees and visitors, with construction and in-state spending by the universities. By comparison, the state’s major military operations were responsible for about $11.5 billion in economic output and 77,000 jobs in fiscal year 2014, according to the regents.

This cumulative economic activity generated nearly $500 million in tax revenue across the state, said Alan Maguire, a study author, during his presentation to the board.

Study authors also separately calculated the impact of out-of-state funding sources on Arizona alone.

“More important to the overall impact on the Arizona economy: $3.8 billion in funding comes from sources outside the state. That’s a net pure gain,” Maguire said. This includes out-of-state tuition, fees, financial aid, gifts and contract revenues.

The spending created 31,700 jobs along with nearly $172 million in tax revenue statewide. The three schools employ nearly 37,000 full-time and part-time employees, with wages and salaries accounting for nearly $2 billion.

Research was another major contributor to overall economic impact, and the University of Arizona led the pack.

All three schools collected $1.2 billion in research money, mostly from the federal government. Of that, the UA drew in the most, at $622 million. ASU and NAU attracted $545 million and $46 million in research money, respectively.

Research expenditures include spending for salaries and benefits, equipment and supplies and a more.

That spending drives other economic activity in that state, according to the study, generating more than $2 billion in economic output.

Of that, the UA contributed more than ASU and NAU combined.

Maguire stressed that a narrow definition of the Arizona’s Public University Enterprise kept the economic impact numbers on the conservative side. He called the study’s results “safe and solid.”

While some board members claimed the impact of Arizona’s universities are “incalculable,” others, such as ASU President Michael Crow and Regent Taylor Robson said the study’s hard numbers are useful.

“In the public policy arena, education is sometimes looked at as an expense and not an investment,” Robson said.

The report allows the board to advocate for education and show that it brings in dollars from out of state, she said.

Contact Mikayla Mace at mmace@tucson.com or 573-4158. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.