Recent Report Highlights the Importance of Public Research Universities
Posted By Abby Perkins on June 19, 2015 at 8:30 am
At a time when many states are facing budget shortages, some are slashing funding to higher education in order to make ends meet. As confidence in public universities wavers, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has undertaken the Lincoln Project to consider the implications of defunding public education – and to create recommendations that ensure the survival of public higher education in America.
Public research universities in America
In the first of five reports, Public Research Universities: Why They Matter, the Lincoln Project seeks to defend the role that these institutions play by looking at five key areas:
- National interest: The study cites the fact that private research laboratories are on the decline, and universities have become the primary source of innovation in the U.S. while employing over 1 million faculty and staff nationwide. They also serve as cultural hubs and medical centers for many communities.
- Innovation economy: Research universities encourage innovation-based relationships with businesses. They also manage their intellectual property for the good of the people rather than solely for profit.
- Cost-efficient education: Low student-teacher ratios and forward-thinking teaching styles align academic initiatives with the strengths and needs of the public. Students also have access to cutting-edge researchers, and job opportunities following graduation provide an excellent return on the student’s investment.
- Maintaining affordability: Public research universities only pass on one-third of the cost of education to students by way of tuition. The rest is secured through endowments and contributions, grants, and state funding. This is necessary to keep education accessible to the greatest number of students, a challenge that private universities do not face.
- Responsible spending: Public research universities have employed a variety of methods to cut costs while maintaining the high number of faculty members necessary for graduate studies and maintaining student support.
The report points out that public research universities have weathered a greater decline in state funding than community colleges and master’s universities. They also do not face the same budget challenges as their private counterparts, which often enjoy large endowments and funding from higher tuition rates.
Yet public institutions are still expected to serve growing numbers of students. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, higher education enrollment is up 28 percent in recent years. Public research universities are struggling to keep tuition rates affordable while still providing a quality education.
More from the Lincoln Project
Named for President Lincoln’s role in signing the Morrill Act of 1862, which laid the groundwork for public universities in the U.S., the Lincoln Project will now seek to develop strategies to keep public research universities accessible to students and ensure their continuation as engines of growth and opportunity for Americans of every background.
The project will continue with four more reports that examine more closely the challenges of funding higher education, as well as the details of how communities are impacted by the research conducted at these institutions. The end goal is concrete policy recommendations for sustaining public research universities.