CORVALLIS, Ore. – By almost every measure, Oregon State University has charted significant growth as a research university in recent years. But a new study offers perhaps the most dramatic evidence of OSU’s impact: The university’s “economic footprint” is now $1.5 billion – 50 percent higher than it was just a decade ago.
The footprint is a key finding from “Oregon State University: An Economic Analysis,” completed recently by Bruce Sorte, a resource economist in the OSU College of Agriculture Sciences, and is a measure of total economic activity attributable to the university. It includes $675 million in revenue flowing into the university, nearly half of which comes from funding sources outside the state. It also includes nearly $114 million in annual spending from the university’s 19,753 students.
“We often point with great pride to the contributions that Oregon State University makes to the progress of science and to the education of our students, but less frequently recognize the impact that OSU has from an economic standpoint,” said OSU President Ed Ray, an economist himself. “As the state’s only institution rated in the most active tier of research universities by the Carnegie Foundation, we’re increasingly aware of our role as an economic catalyst and engine. The growth of that role over the past 10 years has been substantial, and we believe makes a strong case for the value of investing in this university.
“Simply put, every dollar of state general funds invested in OSU leverages nearly $10 in further support for the university and spending statewide.”
OSU is further responsible, the analysis says, for significant economic activity in each of Oregon’s 36 counties, charting a $1.165-million average economic impact per county (excluding Benton and Linn counties, home region for OSU’s main campus, where the university delivers nearly $250 million in value-added economic effects).
Part of the reason for the university’s widespread financial influence stems from the fact that OSU has a presence in every Oregon county, either through a research center, an extension office or an experiment station. Newport, for instance, is home to the Hatfield Marine Science Center, Portland features the Food Innovation Center (a joint project of OSU and the Oregon Department of Agriculture) and the Seafood Laboratory and Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station can be found in Astoria.
OSU economic output in each of those 36 counties ranges from more than a combined $652 million in Benton and Linn to $103,668 in Wheeler. Fifteen counties each show economic output related to OSU of more than $1 million. Furthermore, OSU expenditures led to some 16,000 full- and part-time jobs for Oregonians statewide.
The analysis hints that the actual county-by-county economic impacts are likely even higher than estimated: Because of the difficulty of measuring “with reasonable certainty” the amount of expenditures made in each county by OSU employees, “other payroll expenses,” such as health benefits and retirement pay, were not included in the calculations. OSU’s economic footprint was last measured in 1996. With inflation and adjustments for methodology, the 1996 economic activity would measure approximately $1 billion in today’s dollars. Over the last 10 years, OSU has grown significantly in enrollment, graduates per year, research funding and other key measures, increasing its economic activity by about $500 million or 50 percent.
“There are many ways to measure impact of an institution, but our economic impact is one that resonates with most everyone around Oregon,” said Rebecca Johnson, OSU vice provost for Academic Affairs and International Programs as well as an economics professor in the OSU College of Forestry who co-authored the 1996 study. "When the value of education is combined with the economic impacts of a major research university, people can have confidence that their investments in Oregon State are paying significant dividends."
The economic analysis study was completed, Sorte noted, with the assistance of co-author Nick Beleicks, a graduate student in agricultural and resource economics.