A new study shows a decline in state funding for public research universities. It’s a trend that’s happening across the nation, says Kelvin Drogehmyer, vice chairman of the National Science Board, the organization that published the report. In Illinois, per-student funding for the University of Illinois, University of Illinois at Chicago and Southern Illinois University - Carbondale has declined by an inflation-adjusted 37 percent between 2002 and 2010.
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Drogehmyer says there is concern about the continued ability of the universities to provide affordable, quality education and training to a broad range of students, conducting basic science and engineering research that leads to innovations. Drogehmyer warns that continued decline in state funding threatens the ability of universities to attract the next talent to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers. There is also concern that less state funding equates to tuition hikes, hindering minority students from pursuing science and engineering degrees at top universities.
The fix, Drogehmyer says, is for the state to refocus. “Fundamentally it’s a question of the priorities of the states, and obviously there are many, many competing needs, but the reason that the funding of higher education research universities is so important is because that’s really where a lot of the future lies in terms of technology, national security, economic prosperity, sustainability and things like that,” Drogehmyer said. He says “we don’t want to eat our seed corn” because without proper funding the whole engine of economic development and innovation is harmed for the long haul.