Arizona private colleges and universities contribute more than $516 million to the state’s economy while employing more than 18,000 people each year, an independent study conducted by Scottsdale-based Applied Economics shows.
In addition to its more than 13,000 direct employees and $269 million payroll, the higher education sector, which includes such schools as Grand Canyon University, University of Phoenix, DeVry University and Ottawa University, supports another 5,630 jobs and contributes $162 million through other local businesses. Other sources of revenue pumped into the state include student and tourism spending.
Kathleen Goeppinger, chairwoman of the Board of Independent Colleges and Universities of Arizona, said her organization, which originally came up with the study, wasn’t looking to compare with the public universities but instead get an idea of their place in the economy.
“We wanted to hire a group separate from us to go out and see how these schools are contributing to the economy,” Goeppinger said.
She said the schools have been able to flourish over the last 10 years and enroll more than 78,000 students because of their ability to independently meet the needs of the growing economy.
“As the state expands, that trickles down to the schools,” she said. “Where a field is growing, such as the medical field at Midwestern University or pilot programs at Embry-Riddle, the private schools have been able to make a presence in those fields.”
Tim Hogan of the Center for Business Research at Arizona State University said the numbers should come as no surprise to public or private educators.
“The reality is that this is a growing part of education,” Hogan said. “Specialized schools like Thunderbird and University of Phoenix have really succeeded in filling their niches and catering to specific fields.”
Goeppinger agreed, adding that “attracting and keeping a strong student base in the state is ultimately the best way to positively affect the economy.”