NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As state colleges and universities brace for more possible funding cuts, the University of New Orleans points to the financial impact it is having on this area's economy.
"How much does UNO matter? The answer is a lot, nearly a half a billion dollars a year," said UNO President John Nicklow.
In recent months, UNO researchers conducted a study to determine the university's worth to the eight parish metro area which includes Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. The university pointed out that it does other high profile economic studies, such as on the Superbowl, and economic forecasts for the state and city.
"With about a week left in the special session, I want our entire legislature to understand the value, the quantitative value, of the University of New Orleans," Nicklow said.
The study found that state government is getting a good return on investment.
"For every state dollar the state gives us, we generate $17. That's quite a return on investment and diminishing higher education and the University of New Orleans further will have an impact on the community," Nicklow said.
The current special legislative session at the state capitol will wind down next week and state lawmakers have yet to approve enough of Governor John Bel Edwards' latest tax package to fill all of the holes in the new budget that takes effect on July 1.
"At the start of the session, the governor said without additional revenues the state's higher education system could face $54 million in cuts," Nicklow said. "We're preparing some contingency plans."
And those cuts do not include the currently under-funded TOPS scholarship program.
"For the University of New Orleans, about 19-percent of our students receive some form of TOPS and what I want to say to those students is we're committed to helping them, so we're working in ways we could capitalize on Pell dollars, on other scholarship dollars to help fill the gap if we need to get to that point," Nicklow said.
For the 2014-15 fiscal year, there were 9,234 students at UNO and more than 1,100 employees for an overall economic impact of $470.5 million. During that time period the university awarded 1,910 degrees.
"That person with a master's on average makes $34,000 a year more than if they had a high school degree, that's really impressive, so we're bettering the community, making it far more vibrant with our graduates," said Dr. John Williams, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Business Administration.
Since it's opening in 1958 UNO has granted over 85,000 degrees. Still, the university says it doesn't want to lose ground in terms of attracting more students.
"Going forward we simply need to grow this, we are producing graduates as fast as they're needed, I'll give you an example, in the College of Business, the demand for accountants is huge," Williams said. And diversity counts. "Of the 9,234 students enrolled in the fall of '14 nearly 44 percent, 4066 students classified as belonging to a minority."