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University of Missouri System generates $6.5 billion for the state, study shows

The University of Missouri System generated $6.5 billion in economic impact to the state last year, according to a study presented Thursday to the Board of Curators.

The study examined not just UM System’s direct spending, such as maintaining operations and paying employees, but also the indirect and induced impact, or the various ways dollars stemming from the universities are respent within local and state economies.

“It really shapes the narrative of what people perceive, what they really understand and what the reality is of the value of higher education and investment by the citizens of the state of Missouri,” Marshall Stewart, vice chancellor for extension and engagement, said after the meeting.

The curators met online because the MU campus was closed due to winter weather in Columbia.

For the report, the nationally known consulting firm Tripp Umbach collected data from the system’s four universities, highlighting research, academic medicine, athletics and the MU Extension program during fiscal year 2021. The fiscal year ran from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021.

“We’re measuring not just the rock hitting the pond, which is the operations of the university and the attraction power,” said Paul Umbach, founder and president of Tripp Umbach. “We’re also measuring all the ripples.”

In addition to the $6.5 billion impact, more than 69,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs were supported and sustained by the universities within Missouri. State and local taxes generated $366.5 million.

Although the study included all four campuses in the UM System, for MU alone the results included:

  • $5 billion in total economic impact, $1.6 billion direct and $3.4 billion indirect.
  • Overall employment impact of 49,937 jobs, including 26,283 direct jobs.
  • $281.8 million in state and local taxes.

The study illuminated the economic impact of three key areas: research, academic medicine, and athletics, which yielded $1.5 billion, $2.4 billion and $376.8 million, respectively. Additionally, the report found that for every dollar of state funding, $15.49 is generated in economic expansion due to the UM System’s statewide reach.
Curator Maurice Graham of Clayton said the report was a helpful tool for him and fellow curators when communicating the university’s successes to others.

“This can segue into a great opportunity for we as curators because we do have a good story to tell,” said Graham. “I think this was an excellent opportunity to remind us that we have a role as advocates as curators.”

Not included in the $6.5 billion but noted in the report were glimpses into the economic impact of philanthropy and in-state alumni to the state of Missouri. A total of $26.1 million can be attributed to charitable giving by staff, faculty, and students, whether it be through donation ($14.6 million) or valued volunteer time ($11.5 million).

“One in 29 Missouri workers is a graduate of one of our four universities, and each enhances the economic strength of our state,” Curator Todd Graves said in a news release. Graves is chair of the Academic, Student Affairs, Research and Economic Development Committee.

UM President Mun Choi said the report’s findings indicate two areas in which the university plans to invest in moving forward: growth in research and the MU Extension program statewide.

Inclusion, Equity and Diversity report and discussion

Curators also heard a report from MU’s Maurice Gipson, vice chancellor of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, and discussed the guiding principles of inclusivity for the UM System.

As Gipson concluded and welcomed questions, discussion followed with various curators raising concern for the implications of the diversity training, citing instances of potential encouragement of uniformity and lack of diversity of thought in the classroom.

Student success initiatives

Representatives from each campus addressed the board to discuss matters of student success, including MU’s Vice Provost of Undergraduate Studies and eLearning Jim Spain, who presented to the board MU’s “Lagging Indicators,” or areas in which the university wishes to see growth for its students.

A particular area of concern was the desire to increase the four-year graduation rate of 56.4% for the 2021-2022 academic year to 60.0% by 2025, and the six-year-graduation rate of 72.5% to 76.0%.

Spain said the primary reason for students to leave MU, as for all higher education, was financial barriers, followed by struggles with academic success.

To address these concerns and encourage degree completion, Spain cited efforts of academic advising and early alerts to get students back on track.

Spain discussed MU’s planned implementation of a “plateaued” tuition model beginning in fall 2023. Under this model, a base tuition payment would cover 14 credit hours per semester and provide a financial incentive for students to take more than 14 hours at no additional cost, and therefore decrease the cost of degree completion.

MU Health Care update and nursing

In his presentation to the board, Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Richard Barohn acknowledged the national health care staffing issues’ impact on MU, citing 850 open positions in MU Health Care, including 350 vacant jobs for nurses.

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.