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Declining state support, rising enrollments putting pressure on public research universities

by Laura Tomaka ~ January 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
State support for the nation’s public research universities declined by 20 percent between 2002 and 2010, a period in which enrollment increased by 13 percent.
The result has been steep tuition hikes, fewer resources for science and engineering programs, and shrinking budgets for research and development, according to a report by the National Science Board, the governing body of the National Science Foundation.
The report “Diminishing Funding and Rising Expectations” includes data from the nation’s top 101 public research institutions. As the major producers of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in science and engineering, these institutions contribute greatly to economic development. In 2009, research universities conducted over half of the nation’s total basic research. Furthermore, according to the report, public research institutions are an important source of social and economic mobility for minority and low-income populations: They enroll about one-third of first-time, full-time undergraduate students.
The three main sources of funding for these universities are the federal government, the institutions themselves, and state and local governments.
Between 2002 and 2010, enrollment in the Midwest’s public research universities rose by 10 percent — well below the national average. Only two states in the region, North Dakota and South Dakota, had enrollment increases that topped the national average. Those two states were also the only ones in the Midwest where state funding increased over that time period.
Declining state appropriations and climbing enrollment, the report’s authors say, pose several challenges: pressure to raise tuition and fees, difficulty in recruiting top talent, an inability to compete with private counterparts, and a scarcity of resources needed to deliver quality training and education.
“An enduring commitment to strengthen these universities and maintain quality and affordability is imperative if our nation is to increase the number of highly skilled U.S. [science and engineering] graduates and compete in today’s knowledge-driven global economy,” authors of the report conclude.


Article written by Laura Tomaka, CSG Midwest staff liaison to the Midwestern Legislative Conference Economic Development Committee.