ORONO (AP) – A University of Maine economics professor estimates in a new report that spending by students, visitors and the university itself contributed $698 million to the Maine economy last year.

“The University of Maine is the state’s leading driver of economic development,” the report by Associate Professor Todd Gabe says.

The report, “The University of Maine’s Contributions to State Economic Development,” updates a similar study completed five years ago.

Using data from fiscal 2006, Gabe calculates that UMaine generated $7.65 for every dollar it received from the state.

Last year, UMaine spent $286.9 million on goods and services, including payroll for its 9,818 full- and part-time workers. The report estimates the economic impact of that spending to be $605.6 million.

UMaine student and visitor spending totaled $69 million in 2006 with an overall impact of $92.4 million, according to the report.

“Along with the institution’s sizable economic impact, the skills and knowledge obtained at UMaine allow our graduates to make productive contributions to the Maine economy,” Gabe said in a statement. The university “helps entrepreneurs come up with new ideas and helps businesses expand and support new investments.”

The Bangor Daily News reported that Gabe concluded each graduating UMaine class adds about $515.5 million to Maine’s economy, with additional income associated with graduate degrees raising the total significantly.

“This fall has shown enrollment gains across the board with new record levels of overall enrollment and first-year enrollment,” UMaine President Robert Kennedy said in the statement.

Earlier this year, UMaine officials said the Class of 2011 totals 2,105 students, about 9 percent more than last fall’s first-year class and the largest in campus history. Total fall-semester enrollment at Orono is expected to be 12,100, reflecting a decade-long pattern of enrollment growth.

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