For more than a century the University of Hawaii has brought together research and education to produce some of the brightest intellectuals in the state. But UH has also brought something else - money, and lots of it, statewide and in Maui County.
A recent study estimates that UH spent $2.32 billion in the 2012 fiscal year, more than half of which - $1.84 billion - was spent locally. Researchers with the UH Economic Research Organization, who released the study last week, estimated that UH's impact on the state's economy last year amounted to more than $3.6 billion.
With its 10 campuses statewide, the UH system is one of Hawaii's biggest economic engines.
A human anatomical model stares down on Conrad Hornick’s human anatomy and physiology class during a slide show lecture in the University of Hawaii Maui College’s old science building Tuesday afternoon.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Maui College physics professor Comron Nouri explains a point to his class Tuesday. A report by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization estimated that the university’s impact on the state’s overall economy amounted to more than $3.6 billion last year. Maui College employs 732 people and had an impact of about $85 million last year, the economists said.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"This is just part of a series of reports UHERO has done since 2000 to show that we (the university) are an important part of the economy, and there are real benefits to the spending that goes on," said Carl Bonham, UHERO's executive director.
"We're not just a bunch of people doing research or teaching."
When calculating UH's economic impact, researchers analyzed its purchases from local businesses, its payments to employees and spending by students and visitors, Bonham said.
More than $1 billion of UH's expenditures last year was paid out in employee earnings. According to the report, UH accounted for more than 28,500 jobs in Hawaii, with about 732 of those jobs being in Maui County.
UH-Maui College spent more than $42 million last year. Taking into account how those dollars affected local businesses, student and visitor spending and a number of other factors, researchers estimated UH-Maui College had an economic impact of about $85 million last year.
"We have a substantial positive impact on the local economy, touching on everything from workforce development, to health care and the visitor industry," said Clyde Sakamoto, chancellor of UH-Maui College. "We're continually expanding our role as a key economic driver with the goal of adding value, reducing waste and solving problems."
Over the past 10 years, the Maui campus has brought in more than $115 million from "extramural funding," or sources outside the UH system, Sakamoto added.
Last fall, enrollment at the college totaled 4,382 students, 93 percent of them local residents.
A student at UH-Maui College spends on average more than those at any other UH campus in the state, with an average of $28,267 per year, not counting tuition. If tuition were counted, students at the university's flagship Manoa campus would be the highest spenders.
Today, UH-Maui College, which started as a vocational school in 1931, offers 49 programs in fields ranging from nursing and dentistry to business and culinary arts. The school also added three four-year baccalaureate degrees - in applied business and information technology, engineering technology and sustainable science management.
"We're very happy that the college is here, they've been providing high education for the community, and they're making the important transition from community college to four-year college," said county spokesman Rod Antone. "The Mayor's Office thinks that can only benefit Maui County."
Statewide, a direct benefit to the economy is the university's purchase of supplies from vendors. The additional sale by a wholesaler to the vendor represents an indirect benefit. A third benefit, called "induced" benefit, would be the amount paid by the vendor and wholesaler to employees.
A difference between private business and the university is that it relies on taxpayers for part of its funding. In fiscal year 2012, UH and its research arm spent $1.7 billion in support of the school's education mission. Of that, $376 million came from the state general fund. The remaining $1.4 billion was paid for by government research and training grants, student tuition and fees, bookstore revenue and federal matching grants.
Additional spending by the privately funded University of Hawaii Foundation, other student spending and spending by visitors attending UH conferences brought total UH-related expenditures to $2.32 billion.
* Eileen Chao can be reached at email@example.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.