By David M. Greenwald
It has been fashionable in some circles to bash UC Davis and the University of California. And let’s be honest – there are plenty of legitimate reasons to do so.
Locally there has been a love-hate relationship with the university. Obviously UC Davis is a huge employer of local residents. On the other hand, it has been a driver of growth in the community by adding students without providing them with housing – earning the ire of some residents. Another group of people believe that UC Davis needed to play a larger role in the discussion over DISC and the need for economic development in Davis and locally.
From the university’s perspective, you could argue that they saw enough divisive growth issues, got burned on things like West Village, and have somewhat washed their hands by going in with Sacramento on Aggie Square (only to encounter similar problems there recently with lawsuits and pushbacks on housing in the area).
Statewide, the University of California has been a focal point of student anger who have seen rising student costs while top administrators are raking in six figures, in some cases approaching if not exceeding half a million dollars in salary.
But like everything else, there are two sides to this and one is that not only is the University of California still providing perhaps the best public higher education in the country if not the world, it is also a recent report suggests, an “essential economic engine for the state.”
The numbers in a recent report by Beacon Economics is rather staggering. It contributes $82 billion annual to California’s economic output.
They estimate about half a million jobs in California, one in 45 overall, “are supported by the University” with “UC-related spending generates nearly $12 billion annually in federal, state and local tax revenues.”
The study by Beacon Economics “revealed that every dollar invested in UC by the state of California generates over $21 in economic output, including nearly $10 in labor income.”
They note, “The University’s total economic impact on labor income in the state is over $37 billion annually. These figures reflect University spending as well as its direct and indirect economic impacts.”
“UC’s economic ripple effect is so large that it touches every region in the state, including those without a campus or medical center,” said UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D. “Beyond economic impact, the University’s contributions in health, innovation and social equity are even more important to the lives of Californians.”
The report, “The University of California Economic, Fiscal and Social Impact Analysis,” for the first time includes an analysis of UC’s social impact on the state as well as its economic and fiscal contributions.
“The report underscores UC’s remarkable power to fuel California’s leadership in numerous economic sectors while stimulating equity and opportunity across social and ethnic groups,” said John A. Pérez, chair of the UC Board of Regents. “The University’s impact is truly transformative and far-reaching.”
While we have perhaps criticized UC Davis for under-realizing its potential as a driver of innovation, UC wide the numbers are pretty remarkable.
For example, “The economic impact study reaffirmed that UC is a world leader in innovation, averaging five inventions every day. In fiscal year 2019 UC received over 500 patents, bringing the University’s total to over 5,000 active U.S. patents and nearly 6,000 foreign patents. This reputation for excellence attracted nearly $6 billion in federal, state and private research awards to the University in fiscal year 2019 alone.”
“UC researchers are tackling some of the state’s most urgent problems with ingenuity and innovation, bringing to bear solutions in various fields from hydrology to artificial intelligence and energy sustainability to entertainment,” said Theresa Maldonado, Ph.D., UC’s vice president of Research and Innovation.
A point was raised in a comment earlier this week on the Vanguard questioning whether a university education is worth the costs – but as I pointed out, the data is pretty overwhelming noting the differential between the average income for a college educated person versus a non-college educated person. Yes, there are ways for non-college educated people to earn a decent living, but these days those are exceptions rather than rules.
The study here bears that out.
They note, “A UC education contributes to closing the economic opportunity gap.” Their study looks at undergraduates who are first in their family to attend college – those are people rising from positions of under-privilege to positions where they can earn much more than their parents.
Remarkably, UC has done a good job here with 40 percent of all undergrads being the first in their family to attend college while 37 percent come from low-income families.
This figure is truly remarkable: “within six years of graduation, most first-generation UC graduates earn more than their parents, and most low-income graduates earn more than their parents in just five years.”
The study also put a dollar value on what a UC education means to individual Californians.
They find, “University graduates earn $9,000 more annually compared to non-UC college graduates, and $45,000 more annually compared with Californians who do not have a college degree.”
We have often criticized high debt, but the study found: “High student debt is a pronounced economic problem often hitting those who can least afford it. However, nearly half of California residents who enter UC as freshmen graduate without any student debt. Almost 60 percent of California residents enrolled at the University have all their tuition and fees covered by financial aid, according to the study.”
None of this should wash over legitimate concerns with the policies of the University of California, we as a society need to do better at helping to manage debt, but overall, most people are better off for having received a top notch college education.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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