Feds Fatten College Budgets

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

College administrators continually cry poor, particularly to reporters and congressional representatives, but the federal government lays more largesse on them than most of us have seen. “The next fiscal year will also be difficult because the $54-billion in federal stimulus funds meant to shore up education spending will be gone,” Eric Kelderman reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education on January 7, 2011. “In fact, many states used up those allocations in the 2010 budget cycle.”

One conduit for such cash is the National Science Foundation.  “The National Science Foundation funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering,” the federal agency’s website proclaims. “It does this through grants, and cooperative agreements to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 school systems, businesses, informal science organizations and other research organizations throughout the United States.”

“The Foundation accounts for about one-fourth of federal support to academic institutions for basic research. NSF receives approximately 40,000 proposals each year for research, education and training projects, of which approximately 11,000 are funded.”

The Washington Examiner tracked down one of the ones that made it. “The National Science Foundation,” the Examiner reported, “gave a $460,000 taxpayer-funded grant to two Cornell University researchers studying how people manage their availability using modern technology, particularly in terms of the ‘white lies’ people use to get out of social interactions.”

“That’s a lot of money to spend on what any door-to-door salesman can tell you.” Additionally, the U. S. Congress funds colleges and universities through the infamous earmarking process.

The U. S. Office of Management and Budget lists more than $100 million worth of these that both houses of Congress agreed to. On this roster, the biggest ticket item is unquestionably a $13.6 million dollar grant to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate in Boston for “facilities, equipment and program development” The grant “may include support for an endowment.” The original request was for $20 million.

“The incoming Republican majority in the House is moving to make good on its promise to cut $100 billion from domestic spending this year,” The New York Times reported “House Republican leaders are so far not specifying which programs would bear the brunt”

“ … The reductions that would be required in the remaining federal programs, including education and transportation, would be so deep — roughly 20 percent on average — that Senate Republicans have not joined the $100 billion pledge.” Maybe they haven’t joined because their names are on a lot of the earmarks.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org