Students measure University’s economic impact

5/20/2009 - By: Guia Del Prado

Two University of Nevada, Reno environmental and resource economics majors recently wrote a timely and influential paper that measures the impact of the University’s expenditures on the local economy titled “Student Economic Analysis for UNR.”

When it came time for Leanndra Copeland, 29, and Tessa Rognier, 33, to do a final project for an independent study in resource economics in the fall semester, it was the University’s bleak financial crisis that gave them the idea.

“When they had first started saying the UNR budget would be cut by 30 percent, it really concerned me because I had just learned how things flow through an economy,” Rognier said. “It affects more than just the students. It affects the whole economy and the region as a whole.”

Copeland and Rognier, along with Thomas Harris, professor of resource economics and the director of the University Center for Economic Development, wanted to conduct the study to document the University’s financial importance to the local economy.

But before they could reach any conclusion, the students had to gather the information. They solicited different departments and offices on campus, including the Facilities Services Department for construction, for the past year’s spending. They also considered student and employee income and spending. In addition to gathering information from different departments, they also used surveys. The students then input the information into a software program called IMPLAN and analyzed the results before writing their conclusions.

“I think the students learned how roll up your sleeves and how to go get the data,” Harris said. “How to ask questions, how to make estimations, how to make some judgments and how to use them for the model. And then make it into a kind of publication that somebody could read if they were in business.”

The duo, who have worked on past projects and consider each other friends, found that their skills complemented each other and allowed them to work efficiently.

“We’ve been friends for a long time,” Copeland said. “So it was natural for us to do the project together. We both have the same mindset. We’re both dedicated to school and we’re both meticulous with our work it was a natural fit.”

With so much information to gather and track, Copeland and Rognier ran into some problems with classified information on employee salary and not counting student employees twice, Rognier said.
But with so much interest in the study, Copeland and Rognier generally had no issues with gathering information.

“When we started gathering information, word got around and people wanted it,” Copeland said. “It was great that there was so much interest in our project.”

The interest in the study expanded to much more than on a departmental basis. President Glick referenced the study in his “Letter from the President” in the spring issue of the Nevada Silver and Blue magazine, said Harris.

“I think it turned out to be a bit useful,” Harris said.

In addition to being referenced by President Glick, Copeland’s and Rognier’s paper was also used by Resource Economics Professor Maureen Kilkenny and Betsy Fadali, graduate student and research analyst, for their paper on the “Economic Impact of the Proposed $73 million cut in UNR’s budget.”


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