At a time when some critics are questioning the value of public higher education, the University of Virginia’s value to the Commonwealth of Virginia is greater than ever.
In pursuit of its fundamental mission, UVA provides an excellent, affordable education that develops responsible citizens for leadership and service in the Commonwealth and beyond. But the University does so much more than that. UVA provides world-class patient care, produces cutting-edge research, tackles society’s most pressing problems and serves as an engine of economic development.
The numbers tell part of the story. In 2016, we hired an independent research firm to study UVA’s effect on the state’s economy. Among the key findings: The Academic Division, Health System, and College at Wise combine to generate $5.9 billion annually in economic activity for Virginia. To offer some perspective on the return on investment, the University’s total operating budget was $3.2 billion in 2016-17.
UVA’s total economic impact on the state includes spending on goods and services with vendors; spending by employees, students and visitors; and economic activity generated by businesses that benefit from University spending. Parsed further, UVA directly provides or indirectly supports one in every 76 Virginia jobs, totaling more than 51,653 jobs.
Dollars and jobs are only part of the story. UVA projects and programs benefit many corners of the Commonwealth and far beyond. One notable way that UVA supports statewide economic growth is through the Applied Research Institute. This serves as a conduit between the University and the nation’s defense and intelligence communities—many of which have large footprints in the Commonwealth—to create pathways for government and industry partners to connect with our research and development enterprise, our teaching capabilities and our human talent.
About 300 miles southwest of Charlottesville, UVA’s College at Wise plays a key role in economic development in its region, and the College is a primary source of talent for regional companies. Last year, the Board of Visitors awarded a grant from the Strategic Investment Fund for the Wise Innovation Ecosystem. The grant is now supporting efforts to increase enrollment and retention in software engineering and related programs. It is also helping create a culture of innovation through entrepreneurship and cybersecurity boot camps, internships and certificate programs.
UVA and the College at Wise also work with community and industry partners on rural outreach efforts such as the Appalachian Prosperity Project and the Healthy Appalachia Institute. Both of these initiatives advance education, health and economic prosperity in Southwest Virginia.
Elsewhere in the Commonwealth, UVA recently formed a comprehensive research and education partnership with the Inova Health System—a not-for-profit health care provider based in Northern Virginia. Among the plans for the partnership are the opening of a regional campus of the UVA School of Medicine in 2021 at the Inova Fairfax Hospital and the creation of the Global Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Institute. The goal of the institute is to generate scientific discoveries that we can transform into new treatments, drugs and devices to improve the health of patients across Virginia and beyond.
UVA is also involved in innovative work to shape education around the Commonwealth and across the nation. Faculty in the Curry School of Education have a longstanding history of work in early childhood education and prekindergarten, including efforts to improve workforce and classroom impacts and assessments. Additionally, faculty and researchers are working on numerous collaborations with colleges and universities around the state focused on access, affordability and matriculation, and teacher effectiveness.
Beyond these efforts, UVA has a significant voice in local, state and national public-policy conversations. The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service works to strengthen and preserve effective government in Virginia; the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership trains individuals for public service throughout the Commonwealth; and the Center for Politics works to improve civic education and increase civic participation. These are a few of many such efforts across the University.
A rising tide lifts all boats. Through strong relationships with industry and government partners throughout the Commonwealth, UVA is building value in Virginia and in other corners of the nation and the world. Whether you live in Richmond or Norfolk or Roanoke—or Atlanta or Houston or Shanghai—you should feel proud of your University’s great value now and its potential to reach even greater heights in the future.