The Economic and Functional Impact of University of Illinois Extension

Q: Why did Extension commission this report?

A: Illinois Extension’s mission to engage residents and communities statewide with the University of Illinois is supported by federal, state, local, and private funders. This report, prepared by TEConomy Partners, LLC, provides a detailed, third party assessment of Extension’s impact in Illinois communities. The authors state, “Extension may well be more necessary and relevant today than ever before.”

Q: Who are the authors and what is their background?

A: Simon Tripp, Deborah Cummings and Marty Grueber are the authors. Each is a principal and partner at TEConomy Partners LLC with more than two-decades of experience in conducting complex impact assessments for scientific and social programs, technologies, industries, and universities. Their impact analysis expertise is used by the UDSA, major research universities, industry associations, and state governments. Tripp and Grueber authored the highly-cited impact assessment of the Human Genome Project.  The team has conducted similar projects for Extension at major peer institutions, including for example: Kansas State, University of Nebraska, North Carolina State, the University of Missouri, University of Kentucky, The Ohio State University, and Oklahoma State University.

Q: What are the report’s findings?

A: The 92 page report provides a wealth of information about Extension, its role within the University of Illinois, and its impact for the State of Illinois.

  1. Extension’s economic impact is measured two ways: expenditure-based impacts, and functional or programmatic impacts. The economic and functional impacts assessed in the report sum to $603.3 million annually, an amount nearly ten times more than Extension’s $60.9 million budget in FY2019.

    The authors find Extension’s expenditure-based impact on the Illinois economy (direct, indirect, and induced) is $126 million annually. Calculated using the input/output economic model IMPLAN, this is the stimulus effect of Extension’s payroll (655 full time equivalent employees statewide) and other expenditures on the state economy.

    The authors develop five illustrative examples of functional or programmatic impact that span the breadth of Extension, including agriculture, nutrition, health, and youth development. The annual benefit to the Illinois economy of these selected examples is estimated at $477.3 million.
     
  2. The report provides 48 detailed examples of functional impact across Extension’s diverse mix of programming, including agriculture, food, and natural resource development; environmental stewardship; community and economic development; health, nutrition, and family development; and youth development (4-H). For each thematic area, the authors provide background information, challenges and opportunities specific to Illinois, and descriptions of how Extension programs generate impact.
     
  3. The authors describe Extension’s historic and continuing role within the Land Grant University as a driver of economic and societal progress. The report includes detailed descriptions and charts that clearly explain Extension’s theoretical foundation and impact model.

Q: I was in 4-H as a child. It made a huge difference in my life. How can you put a dollar value on that?

A: Many Extension programs, including 4-H, are holistic, multifaceted, and provide both immediate and long term benefits. It is especially challenging to express these benefits in dollar terms. To measure the impact of Extension’s hundreds of programs and interventions on these complex issues, the authors developed tractable scenarios and examples. For example, one measure associated with 4-H is the increased lifetime earnings youth who go on to complete their college degree, as a result of their 4-H experience.

Q: My county provides local funding for Extension. Are taxpayers getting their money’s worth?

A: Extension is active in every County in Illinois. Each Extension unit develops unique, locally-adapted plans of work designed to meet local needs, which are developed and approved with the guidance volunteer councils made up of residents and community leaders. Counties, community foundations, businesses, and individual donors contribute locally, and Extension helps leverage these investments. The State of Illinois matches local funds for Extension pursuant to the County Cooperative Extension Law (505 ILCS 45). Federal funding for Extension under USDA-NIFA also requires a local match. In addition to state and federal funds spent local, Extension receives substantial federal, state, and foundation grants that support local programs. This report demonstrates that Extension spending and programming generates substantial economic benefits.

Q: Does this report tell us the “return on investment” (ROI) for University of Illinois Extension?

A: No. Extension’s mix of federal, state, and local funds, grants and contracts, donors, and in-kind resources complicate such calculations. The report does provide assurance to Extension’s funders, partners, and stakeholders that Extension’s model and implementation are robust, supporting programs whose benefits to Illinois far exceed (10x) Extension’s expenditures.

Q: The authors identify $477.3 million in functional/programmatic impacts across five thematic areas. Does this express Extension’s total value to Illinois?

A: No. Calculating precise benefits for hundreds of Extension programs, resources, and interventions would be cost and time prohibitive. The report’s estimates of programmatic impact rely upon readily measurable examples that encompass some, but not all Extension programs and initiatives. Expressing impact in dollar terms is a useful, but not the only lens to consider Extension’s value to Illinois residents, the University, and the state. The Extension network’s value to the University’s teaching and research enterprise; 4-H’s role in fostering belonging, independence, generosity, and mastery in youth; and Extension’s civic engagement and leadership programs are all examples of clear, but hard to quantify, value.

Q: How will Extension, the University of Illinois, and others use this report?

A: The report’s analytical approach to Extension – it’s structure, model, programs, and how these combine to create public value – will be useful to administrators, partners, funding organizations, and public officials interested in understanding more about Extension and its role in the University, in local communities, and for the State of Illinois.

Q: How can I learn more about Extension’s work in my community and statewide?

A: Extension educators and programs are active in all 102 Illinois counties. Find your local office.