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Hot Topic: Public Universities Look for New Ways to Support Research

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Wednesday April 28, 2010

Hot Topic: Public Universities Look for New Ways to Support Research

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Concerned about dwindling state support, public university presidents from across the nation are exploring ways to sustain the financial health of research programs. On Friday, Rutgers is hosting the last of five meetings organized this month by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). Rutgers is represented by President Richard L. McCormick and Michael Pazzani, vice president of Research and Graduate and Professional Education. On the table are proposals that federal funding cover more of the indirect costs of research and other institutional expenses. Rutgers Today talked to Pazzani about issues likely to be raised by the presidents, chancellors and research vice presidents who gather at Rutgers.

Michael Pazzani

Michael Pazzani

Rutgers Today: Rutgers and public universities nationwide have been sounding the alarm over declining state support for years. What issues are you raising that haven’t been discussed many times already?

Pazzani: Previous university calls for sustained state support have dealt with tuition affordability, a crucial concern of students and parents in New Jersey and nationwide. Our focus this week is on the viability of research at public universities. State funding has traditionally paid for facilities, general expenses, and management that support research funded by federal, state, and private grants and contracts.

Rutgers Today: Are meeting participants simply pleading for more state money? Do they expect states to respond any differently?

Pazzani: Regardless of high-profile skirmishes over education and research funding in many states, we know that state governments have limited resources. We’ve witnessed a steady drop nationwide in real per-student state appropriations over two decades. Research universities have increased the proportion of total research paid for with their own internal funding from 14.2 percent in 1972 to 24 percent in 2008. University leaders are looking to state and federal governments, private foundations, and individual donors for new solutions to research funding shortfalls.

Rutgers Today: What are some of those solutions?

Pazzani: We are looking at three broad topics. The first is how to improve university alignment with state needs. We want states to understand the economic value that research delivers in jobs created and income generated, and we want to direct our research programs with these social, environmental, and economic needs in mind. The second is whether the federal government adequately compensates universities for the indirect costs associated with conducting federally funded research, such as payment for all the facility and administrative costs. If not, what remedies do we desire? And finally, we’re asking if federal funding should cover certain research, educational, and institutional support functions that were traditionally funded by the states. If so, how do we make such a case? The APLU will share our thoughts with the National Academy of Sciences, which is studying the competitive position of American research universities in the global economic climate.

Media Contact: Carl Blesch
732-932-7084 x616
E-mail: cblesch@ur.rutgers.edu

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