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Economic Impacts of AAU Universities

America’s research universities are complex, multi-faceted institutions that support a wide variety of research and educational activities and provide a broad array of public and institutional services. Among their many societal contributions, research universities generate significant economic activity.

As labor- and service-intensive institutions and incubators of new ideas and technology, research universities serve as economic engines for their communities and regions, providing well-educated graduates, employing thousands of workers, attracting large federal, industry, and foundation grants and contracts, creating innovative technologies and businesses, fostering new business opportunities, and expanding the tax base.

AAU is an association of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada. The 60 U.S. members of AAU:

  • Educate 1.1 million undergraduate students and 560,000 graduate students each year;

  • Employ more than 684,000 people, roughly the population of El Paso, Texas;
  • Have combined annual operating budgets of about $138 billion (2012), which if they were a separate nation, would rank them number 24th in the world;
  • Have patented and licensed thousands of innovative discoveries and technologies that have fostered new products, companies, and entire industries in such fields as medicine, public safety, food and agriculture, new materials, semiconductor devices, education, and communications;
  • Received 2,743 patents and executed 2,430 licensing agreements in 2011;
  • Initiated 296 start-up companies in 2011, of which 72 percent operate in the same state as the licensing institution. 


Many AAU universities have developed detailed reports on their local and regional economic impacts. Links to those reports can be found here


Facts About AAU Universities’ Economic Benefits

  • University of California, San Diego faculty and alumni have founded more than 200 companies.

  • The Johns Hopkins University is the largest private employer in Baltimore and in combination with the Johns Hopkins University Health System, the largest private employer in the state of Maryland


See other interesting facts here