universities have to have significant national support. China is making major
investments in its universities. I have visited some of the campuses that have
received this national funding largess and am amazed how rapidly they have
become substantial research universities. India is in the early stages of a similar
program of massive investment. These countries are not depending on
provincial government support to maintain their critical national research
university needs.
In only a decade the United States has fallen from the top few countries in
the world in the proportion of its 25- to 34-year-old citizens with a higher
education to a tie for 11th. Tertiary attainment decline is the leading edge of the
problem. Competitiveness decline is the next consequence, a consequence we
can avoid if a program of targeted federal investment in research universities is
begun soon.
Graduate education requires an infusion of federal funding. No state will
ever utilize all the Ph.D. classicists or geologists that a single program at a single
large research university can produce. States doing the calculus that compares
state benefit to state cost on a program-by-program basis are likely to cease
funding graduate programs that are critical to the health of the research
university ecology. Only federal funding is likely to ensure adequate production
of such specialists.
A general federal subsidy may be required to help research universities
emerge from the funding trough into which they have fallen, not just in the last
two years but in the last twenty-two years. Facilities have deteriorated,
equipment is out of date, and most operations are understaffed. Research
universities have gone far past economizing and are into cannibalism. Reversing
this trend will take time and money.
Clearly, equity demands that the federal government quit skimping on
facilities and administration cost reimbursements. The federal government must
assume the full cost of federally funded research and cease relying on
universities to subsidize that research.
I do not believe that research universities are in immediate danger, but
danger lies ahead if we do not heed the ample warning signals. The universities
themselves understand the danger and are experimenting with methods of
instruction that may improve student learning outcomes at reduced cost and
are otherwise streamlining operations as they cut budgets.
Research universities are weakened now but have much of their core
RLI 274
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The Future of the US Research University
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C O N T I N U E D
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FEBRUARY 2011 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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