Funding difficulties split universities nationwide
By Annabelle Boyd
Experts say that major research universities, hampered by a persistent gap between revenue and spending, are finding it more difficult to support the demands of advanced research and, at the same time, to finance high-quality undergraduate and graduate programs, according to a recent article in The New York Times.
Increasing parental and student resistance to tuition hikes, reductions in federal and state aid, corporations attaching more restrictions on their donations and the growing expense of advanced research are the most cited reasons for the budget crunch currently plaguing American colleges.
Budget problems, while not in existence on every campus, are stealing an alarming amount of time from both administrators and faculty throughout the university system, according to The Times article. University officials must establish "three year plans" and "five year plans" to organize and maintain multimillion-dollar fund-raising drives. The competition for securing research funding from corporations is getting even steeper, as the Council for Aid to Education has tracked a steady three percent decline in private donations over the last year.
According to Stanford President Donald Kennedy, "balancing the budget each year has become a painful process of expenditure reduction, conducted amid agony over the salaries we are able to pay our faculty and over the tuition we must charge."
As budget difficulties force universities to make tough decisions concerning curriculum and research, many academics are beginning to question the relationship between scholarship and teaching.
"Many faculty members prefer post-doctoral to graduate student assistants because the former are more efficient," Princeton President Harold Shapiro told The Times. He added that: "Some suggest that undergraduate education gets in the way of frontline and increasingly complex research. Others argue that blockbuster grants for research centers, all of which require some type of cost sharing, siphon internal funds away from teaching."
Economic pressures have also prompted calls for significant changes in the way the federal government and private donors sponsor research, and in the way universities pursue major private gifts.
Yet, while readily acknowledging the dollar-driven causes of the current ferment in higher education, Timothy O'Meara, the provost at Notre Dame, suggested that it also reflected a broader societal concern, a "feeling that society itself is on the cusp of great changes, but anxiety that they may not necessarily be all good."