In the past year, the University of Georgia has awarded more than 10,700 degrees, helped bring nearly 60 new research-based products to market and leveraged its network of extension agents and statewide public service and outreach units to help individuals and communities across Georgia to thrive.
By fulfilling its three-pronged mission of teaching, research and service, UGA generated a record $7.4 billion in annual economic impact for the state of Georgia, according to a new comprehensive study. Growth in the number of degrees awarded at the undergraduate and graduate levels, increased externally funded research activities, and expansion of public service and outreach activities all contributed to this record.
“This latest economic impact study provides further evidence that the University of Georgia is vital to the prosperity of our state,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Our faculty, staff, students, and alumni create opportunities throughout Georgia that strengthen our economy and our future, delivering a meaningful return on investment.”
Information on how individuals and communities can connect to academic expertise and resources—as well as estimates of local economic impacts—is available at impact.uga.edu.
Educating for Georgia’s Future
The study, conducted by UGA economist Michael Adjemian, assessed the economic activity generated by the university’s teaching activities in the 2020-2021 academic year by calculating the increase in revenue that degree holders can expect to receive based on their field of study. Two out of three UGA graduates stay in Georgia, and their increased income contributes to the tax base of the communities they call home. International and international students generate an economic impact through the expenses they bring to Georgia, and these impacts have also been included in the report.
The demand for a UGA education — measured by the number of applications and the number of students enrolled — is at record highs, as are measures of student success. This fall, enrollment at UGA topped 40,000 students for the first time in the institution’s 237-year history, with the fastest growth in graduate and professional student numbers. Measures of student success at UGA are at record highs, with 88% of students graduating within six years. This figure is well above the average for the SEC and peer institutions and is only one percentage point lower than the average for UGA aspirational institutions.
Jack Hu, senior vice president of academic affairs and provost of the university, noted that initiatives to reduce class sizes, expand experiential learning opportunities and provide personalized student support are helping to the record levels of student achievement at UGA.
“Our outstanding academic and academic programs contribute to student success and career outcomes,” Hu said. “In addition, UGA faculty conduct innovative research and impactful outreach that makes our entire state more competitive in the global economy.”
Fostering discovery and innovation
The report notes that the easiest component of UGA’s impact to quantify is the economic activity generated by externally funded research grants and contracts. According to a commonly used economic impact model known as IMPLAN, every dollar of funding from federal agencies and out-of-state foundations generates an economic impact of $2.08, as these funds are spent in Georgia for personnel and equipment.
In the past year alone, UGA faculty have secured a seven-year contract worth up to about $92 million from the National Institutes of Health to create a dedicated flu center. and are continuing their work on a nearly $20 million grant from the U.S. Department. of State to combat human trafficking. UGA faculty also co-direct a National Science Foundation-funded center to study ocean ecosystems. UGA’s total research and development expenditures have increased by 41% since fiscal year 2013.
Research grants spark discoveries, and UGA continues to expand its innovation ecosystem to help turn those discoveries into new products and businesses that contribute to the Georgian economy. In addition to funding through external grants, revenue from product licensing and the creation of UGA’s research-based startups have contributed to the university’s record economic impact.
For the eighth consecutive year, UGA has ranked among the top five U.S. universities for the number of commercial products created by industry partners based on faculty and staff research. Recent products based on UGA’s research include vaccines that support the poultry industry, research and education tools, world-class turfs and new crop varieties. In many cases, UGA faculty develop crop varieties specifically adapted to the region’s climate and soils to support established markets, such as peanut production, and burgeoning agricultural sectors, such as citrus cultivation in Georgia.
More than 200 companies are based on research conducted by UGA faculty, including startups such as biotech companies InfraredRX and ArunABio. In addition to supporting local startups, the university’s Innovation District also attracts businesses to Athens, including Texas-based Metropolis. In 2021, the university opened its Delta Innovation Hub, which hosts several innovation and entrepreneurship programs.
Serving all 159 Georgia counties
UGA’s status as the state’s flagship institution for land and maritime concessions means that contributing to the economic vitality and well-being of Georgian citizens and communities is an integral part of its mission.
UGA cooperative extension Agents serve each of Georgia’s 159 counties, providing reliable, research-based information statewide through science-based programs and educational opportunities in agriculture, environment, welfare -Family being and 4-H youth development and leadership. In fiscal year 2021, UGA extension officers had 1.2 million in-person contacts with people across the state, launching partnered initiatives to provide vaccine education; provide health, wellness and financial security programs; and solving supply chain problems by connecting producers to consumers. Georgia 4-H served more than 97,000 youth statewide during the same period, both virtually and in person.
The university’s eight public service and outreach units help create jobs, develop leaders, and address critical challenges. Among those units is the Small Business Development Center, which operates a network of 18 locations across the state that has worked with nearly 5,400 clients and helped launch 483 new businesses in 2021.
Another PSO unit, the JW Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, launched MENTOR Georgia to expand access to high-quality mentorship statewide. Funded by a USDA Rural Community Development Initiative grant, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government launched a program to help rural communities develop and implement strategies for economic recovery and resilience. In conjunction with the Provost’s Office, Public Service and Outreach also launched a program to help faculty connect their research and expertise to the needs of rural Georgia.
For this year’s report, Adjemian adopted a more inclusive methodology that also considers economic contributions to the state associated with UGA’s operating expenses. Spending on labor, overhead, and facilities in Athens and throughout the state generates economic activity as these funds are spent on goods and services. Major investments in campus facilities include the Interdisciplinary Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Research Complex and a new Poultry Science Complex.
Adjemian found that, overall, every dollar of state funding to UGA generates a return on investment of $22. Combined with the $7.4 billion in economic impact generated by UGA’s teaching, research, and service missions, the additional $2.9 billion the university contributes to the economy of the State through its operating expenditures amount to $10.3 billion in economic value in 2021.