It is ironic that today Northern Arizona University releases its economic impact study as the state’s most recent budget proposal comes to light.

Once again the leaders at the State Capitol have chosen to place the majority of the state’s fiscal burden onto higher education, proposing more than $100 million in reductions to Arizona’s university system. NAU’s share of this proposed reduction is more than $18 million.

This cut would result in the state investment in universities dropping by more than $500 million since 2008. NAU’s state investment will have dropped from over $160 million in 2008 to a proposed $92 million, taking us back to 1995 funding levels.

NAU’s economic impact in Arizona is more than $1.8 billion, clearly demonstrating that higher education is not a luxury and should not be treated as expendable. Each of the three universities makes critical contributions to this state. NAU activity contributes $1.158 billion in Coconino County’s economy. One in every five jobs in this county is a result of NAU’s presence.

The effect of these reductions will ripple into the economy for years to come. Our universities are made up of people who make significant contributions to this state and help it recover in tough budget times.

Let us remember it is today’s students who create tomorrow’s innovations. It is our researchers and faculty who discover groundbreaking solutions to real problems. Reductions of this magnitude go beyond efficiency measures, postponing maintenance and technology upgrades. Cuts of this size will undoubtedly impact people: to students in cost and program availability, as well as employees through a reduced work force.

The numbers tell the story for our state’s economy:

  • For every $1 the state invests in NAU the return on investment is $16.72.
  • For every $1 in state appropriations to NAU 83 cents in estimated state and local taxes is collected annually.
  • For every $1 the university spends, there is $4 of economic impact.
  • Sixty-one percent of NAU graduates reside in Arizona and our alumni circulate $1.65 billion in the Arizona economy each year.

NAU’s rapid enrollment growth since 2008 has allowed the university to increase degrees awarded and research investments in Arizona. To maintain access and affordability for students and families NAU instituted the guaranteed tuition Pledge program in 2007. The state is making it very difficult for NAU to maintain its commitment to access and affordability.