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Indiana ranks low in funding for public research universities

Indiana fares poorly in a recent study of state funding to public research universities conducted by the National Science Board.

The report points out that Indiana reduced per-student funding for its major public research universities by 18 percent between 2002 and 2010 after adjusting for inflation, dropping from $7,403 to $6,071. Nationally, that places Indiana in the bottom, or fourth quartile, in the country.

From a global point of view, foreign countries invested heavily to challenge the United States’ dominant global position in science and innovation, according to the study released last week.

“Increasingly, governments around the world have come to regard movement toward a knowledge-based economy as key to economic progress,” the science board report said. To develop a “well-trained workforce, they have invested in upgrading and expanding their higher education systems and broadening participation.”

The National Science Board advises the National Science Foundation, which was created in 1950 to advise Congress and the president. Its goal is to recommend and encourage the pursuit of national policies for the promotion of research and education in science and engineering.

“Following the two recessions that book-ended the last decade, states had serious budget shortfalls,” NSB chairman Ray Bowen said in a news release accompanying the report. “The decline in support is a cause of concern. Also, in many states, the decline has been somewhat offset by tuition increases.”

The downside to tuition increases, Bowen noted, was limiting opportunities for lower-income students.

The NSB report pointed out that state funding to the top 101 public research universities clearly fluctuated between 2002 and 2010, “dipping in the early years and then rising until 2008, when it began to fall sharply.”

In inflation-adjusted dollars, state funding declined by 10 percent between 2002 and 2010, with nearly three-quarters of the universities (72 of 101) experiencing cuts in state funding. As a percentage of the universities’ total revenue, state funding declined from 28 percent in 2001 to an average of 19 percent in 2009.

In contrast, global research and development expenditures over the past decade grew faster than the global gross domestic product index.

The United States remained by far the single largest R&D performing country, however, with an R&D expenditure of $400 billion in 2009. But for the first time, the Asian region’s total of $399 billion matched the U.S. total in 2009, according to the report. China’s 2008-09 R&D growth increased by a record 28 percent, pushing it past Japan into second place globally.

The science board report said, “R&D expenditures can be viewed as long-term investments in innovation.”

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