Office of the President

November 19, 2019

New economic impact report shows how much the UW returns on the state’s investment

Ana Mari Cauce

As a public university, the University of Washington depends on support from the taxpayers of our state to fulfill our public mission: to educate students, treat patients, advance discovery and serve our communities. It would be impossible to fully quantify the value of all the ways we support that mission – you can’t put a number on a life changed because of a college degree, or saved thanks to a medical intervention. But with the release of a new independent report on the economic contributions of the UW to our state and local economies, it is possible to understand the scale of return on the state’s public investment in the UW.

According to the report, produced by the consulting firm Parker Philips, Inc., the UW contributed $15.7 billion to the state’s economy in fiscal year 2018. This includes more than $750 million in state and local tax revenue – a combination of taxes on spending by the University, students and visitors and the indirect impact on the tax base due to jobs supported by the UW. In addition to their contribution to the state’s economy, the UW’s staff, faculty and students contributed another $39.9 million in charitable giving. All in all, a pretty good return on the state’s roughly $400 million contribution to the UW’s operating budget.

As the fifth largest employer in Washington, the UW supports – directly and indirectly – more than 100,000 jobs. That’s one out of every 37 jobs in our state. The UW directly employs over 45,000 people, including the faculty who teach and mentor the nearly 60,000 students studying at our three campuses; the maintenance and food service staff who keep our campuses functioning; and doctors, nurses and other health care providers. Another 55,000 jobs in our state are sustained by the University’s operations and spending by students and visitors. All kinds of businesses, from small family-owned restaurants to the many vendors who contract with the UW, are fueled by the UW’s enterprise in Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell as well as across the state.

The UW is also the recipient of the most federal research funding of any U.S. public university, attracting $1.3 billion in grants last year. Those grants are advancing research in areas like medicine, clean energy, nanotech and marine biology. Research conducted at the UW helps drive innovation and investment and propels us toward solving some of the most daunting challenges our world faces.

But the biggest impact on our state’s economy actually goes beyond even these large numbers. It’s felt in the expansion of Washington’s educated middle class and in the pathways to opportunity that make our state a desirable place to live. The UW creates access to an outstanding college education for any Washington student who aspires to one. Through the Husky Promise, the UW ensures that financial need is never a barrier to attending the UW. As a result, we enroll more Pell-grant eligible students than all of the Ivy League combined, and more than 32 percent of incoming students are first-generation college students. The UW makes this kind of impact at a scale that resonates across Washington for generations.

We are grateful for the public investment in the UW, and for the recent decision by state lawmakers to create a dedicated funding source to benefit all Washington residents who want to pursue higher education and job training. We are driven by our great public mission, and as this report shows, the University for Washington is delivering on that mission in ways both quantifiable and unquantifiable.