29. April 2013 08:36
In order to evaluate performance, any good business will track data to assess: how well a product is selling, how effective services are, how well its customers are satisfied. A university is no different: our products are graduates and inventions, and our services include community and business development activities. However, performance metrics evaluating these areas can be far more difficult to collect and analyze. Therefore, universities use standard methods and tools to evaluate their economic impact and we are very pleased to roll out the latest Washington State University Economic Contributions report. You will no doubt be impressed by statistics on the return on investment our university provides to Washington.
Given expenditures on salaries, vendor purchases, scholarships, and building upkeep and maintenance, combined with student and spectator spending at athletic events, WSU is at the center of $3.6 billion of economic impact in Washington. Moreover, compare this to the $189.2 million in state dollars going to support WSU, university activities account for $18.89 returned to Washington’s economy for every $1 allocated to WSU by the state. This is in just one year alone. We encourage you to read the report for further statistics on human capital, research and outreach by WSU faculty and staff.
It is vital that universities collect and monitor these expenditures and returns in order to accurately educate legislators, businesses and the general public about the substantial contributions a research institution provides to its regional economy. Equally important is the process of contextualizing these numbers. To this end, we ask that you turn your attention to the sidebars within the report for a glance into what university expenditures support; clearly we are not spending money for spending’s sake. These stories about people, programs, and products provide WSU the spotlight for economic impact. Regardless, it remains a significant challenge to describe the true impact of university education, research, and outreach activity through performing traditional number crunching predicated on expenditure data.
This exact challenge is steadily rising on agendas of university associations and federal agencies alike. The STAR Metrics initiative is aiming to collect more significant data of job creation resulting from federal research grants, while the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) is attempting to collect data on university technology transfer that go beyond counting patents and licenses. To a similar end, the WSU Office of Economic Development is poised to launch ‘phase two’ of Washington State University’s economic contributions report: delving into collecting metrics that will assist in telling a deeper story of economic impact. For more information on this initiative and our involvement with the APLU on their New Metrics pilot program, click here.