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Graph courtesy of The Statewide Economic Impact of the University of New Mexico.

Graph courtesy of The Statewide Economic Impact of the University of New Mexico.

Study shows UNM greatly affects state economy

The University of New Mexico is one of the biggest institutions in the entire state — its full impact was revealed on Monday.

During a press conference at Lobo Rainforest, UNM President Garnett Stokes revealed the results of a study titled “The Statewide Economic Impact of the University of New Mexico.”

In the study’s executive summary, UNM’s economic impact includes 24,985 jobs and an economic output of $3.1 billion.

“Pretty major news,” Stokes said about the study. “Maybe we already knew it, but now we have it quantified.”

The study also looked at the University’s roughly 184,000 living alumni, of which 58 percent currently live in New Mexico. It states that UNM alumni spend around $768 million on local goods and services, while producing nearly $200 million in taxes.

The study does not include the local spending of UNM students who are New Mexican residents — who make up 83 percent of the student body — because “the assumption is they’d be in the state spending money anyway,” said Kelly O’Donnell, a research professor at UNM who conducted the study.

O’Donnell did acknowledge the possibility that New Mexican students who don’t go to UNM might go out-of-state for college, but also said that such assumptions are difficult to quantify.

Currently, UNM is expecting its sixth consecutive year of decreased enrollment, with the number of students coming to the University decreasing by 9 percent since 2012.

Both Stokes and O’Donnell said that whether or not decreased enrollment will have any effect on the numbers in the study depends on what kind of students are no longer coming to UNM.

“We have a very complex tuition system,” Stokes said. “We are actually looking into what the impact will be to our budget to have a downturn in our total enrollment.”

O’Donnell added that tuition lost from shrinking enrollments plays a very small role in the overall economic impact of the University.

“The economic impact of fewer students will depend on their majors, whether they are students who ultimately graduate and if they are students who would otherwise leave the state,” O’Donnell said.

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The study also only includes data from 2017. When asked why this was the case, O’Donnell said that comparing data from 2017 to previous years was not the purpose of the study.

“We’re looking at the magnitude of the impact,” she said, adding that the numbers in the study do not change dramatically year to year.

Speakers at the press conference included Stokes, CEO of STC.UNM Lisa Kuuttila, and Sandra Begay, the chair of the STC.UNM Board of Directors.

Also speaking was Ryan Shell, the president of the New Mexico Gas Company, who provided the grant that made the study possible.

“Since 2016, we’ve given $300,000 to UNM groups,” Shell said. “A small portion of that funding went towards the study.”

New Mexico Gas Company’s monetary involvement goes far beyond just UNM. So far in 2018, the company’s political action committee — HEAT PAC — has donated over $14,000 to dozens of political candidates across the state.

As for the future of the study, Kuuttila said that it will be updated periodically, although not every year.

Kyle Land is the editor-in-chief for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.

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