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Total national expenditures for higher education have increased by more than 60% over the past five years from $11.2 billion in 1963–64 to $18.3 billion in 1967–68. Federal funds for higher education rose during this period from $3.2 to $4.4 billion (Table II). The proportion of total expenditures accounted for by federal funds more than tripled-from 7 to 24%-between 1939–40 and 1967– 68 (Table 1). By 1980 the Federal Government may be supplying as much as 40% of the total cost of higher education in the United States. The U.S. Commissioner of Education recently predicted a total public outlay of $100 billion for all education by 1980 (about twice the present amount) and said that the Federal Government “obviously must bear a much more substantial share of the cost than at present." (Reported in N.Y. Times, July 9, 1969).


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Source: Office of Education, DHEW, 1979–80 figures from American Council on Education.

Note: Figures on inome for higher education differ slightly according to various sources. The Office of Education figures used here have been challenged, but the general trends that are important to this discussion exist no matter what statistical source is used.

Over the past five years, both the science and non-science components of federal expenditures in the nation's colleges and universities have risen substantially, but the non-science component has increased most rapidly. While federal academic science funds were the predominant source of federal money for higher education in 1963–64, by 1967–68 the non-science funds were almost equal to the science funds (Table II).


STATES, 1963-64 AND 1967-68

[Dollar amounts in billions)

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Foderal share.

Academic science..





Source: Office of Education.

The major trends in financing of higher education are very clear. The total cost of higher education is rising rapidly. The component covered by government (federal, state and local) is increasing. The federal academic science component is rising less rapidly than was true over the past decade, but funds for academic science are now about 15% of the total funds spent for higher education. Academic science funds are more than all other federal expenditures for higher education but non-science federal expenditures are rising rapidly, and will soon exceed the science expenditures. In terms of national policy, federal academic science expenditures must be considered in the light of their general effects on colleges and universities as well as in terms of their effects in the realm of science.

The primary product of institutions of higher learning is highly educated people. The nation will continue to need, and the citizenry will continue to demand, an increasing flow of people trained to the undergraduate and graduate levels.

More specifically, the national economy depends upon an expanding supply of scientists and engineers from graduate and professional schools. In 1930, there were six scientists and engineers for every 100 workers. Now there are 21 scientists and engineers for every 100 workers. By 1980, the demand for scientists and engineers will increase by 50 to 100 per cent in different fields, and an even higher proportion of the work force will be composed of scientists and engineers.

The Federal Government is the most important single user of scientific and engineering talent, and its needs will remain high under any likely set of future circumstances. Over the decade of 1954-64, federal employment of scientists and engineers rose from 88,000 to 143,000 (Table III). TABLE III.-SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, 1954 AND 1964

[In thousands)

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Source: NSF Report to UNESCO on U.S. Science Policy, 1968.

These tabulations of the broad trends and status of the financing of higher education, the federal component, the academic science portion, and the needs of the nation for highly trained people portray the general significance of federal funds for academic science to universities. They make clear the fact that the volume of funds for academic science, the stability of funding and the terms and conditions under which the funds are available have important repercussions on colleges and universities--even those which are not critically dependent on these funds. In particular, it is evident that unless there is a pervasive continuing effort to avoid impeding, disrupting or unbalancing the process of graduate and professional education for science and technology in the nation's universities, serious problems will be created for the future.

Although the existing system has served the nation well in the past, there are signs that existing pressures, emphasis on new national goals, and emerging attitudes towards science and the universities are generating problems. These in turn, call for modification of the system and consideration of major changes to adapt most productively to the needs of the next decade.


The legislation in recent years which accounts for the sharp increase in the flow of non-science federal funds to universities represents the first step in the emergence of a new policy-an implied responsibility of the Federal Government for underwriting the support of universities, including their educational, service, and research functions. Logical proposals for the administration of federal programs of academic science can be framed, therefore, only by explicitly assuming that the federal responsibility thus far expressed in legislation and appropriations may be extended to general federal underpinning for higher education. It is becoming increasingly evident that there is real danger that measures intended to strengthen and stabilize academic research and graduate education in science which neglect to consider all other functions of the universities can create further bias and imbalance within the higher educational system.

The recommendations at the end of this paper center on the subject of the administration of federal programs of academic science. They have been formulated, however, in the context of the future development of higher education in general and the contributions that all science and technology can and must


make to the achievement of the nation's social and economic goals. They consider how the executive branch might be structured so that the problems that exist now-and that will become more pressing can be dealt with more effectively.


A. Development of Federal Programs of Support for Academic Science

Soon after World War II, it became clear that pursuit of national objectives in health, agriculture, atomic energy, and defense would require an expanding effort in science, the principal resource for which was the nation's universities. Federal action during the past two decades has featured the development of many programs designed to utilize and to enlarge this capability in institutions of higher learning.

The country has benefited enormously from this close association of university capability and national purposes:

The vigor and excellence of American science have placed the U.S. in the vanguard of scientific and technological advance. It is now the envy of and emulative model for the world.

Science has been brought into a more sensitive and responsive relationship to urgent public needs and national goals.

The entire framework of research and graduate education in science has been strengthened and broadened, and the nation's resources of scientific manpower have been substantially increased and enhanced.

The process of undergraduate education has also benefited through the enrichment of the academic environment, the quality of teaching, and the improved content of curricula that have resulted from these developments.

The pluralistic system of Federal support for academic research has evolved and served the nation well. The principle of pluralism is basically sound and should be sustained but it should now be modified and supple

mented along the lines suggested later in this paper. Federal mission agencies have increasingly called on universities to perform research. Until 1966, the annual growth in Federal funds for this purpose was nothing less than spectacular, averaging 22.7 percent per year between 1956 and 1966, (see Table IV). It is hardly surprising that universities have reached a point of great dependence upon Federal funds for research. While it was obvious to all that this high annual rate of expansion of funds for academic research could not continue indefinitely, the abruptness of the change in FY 1967 and the subsequent drop to levels below those needed even to maintain the existing effort have created unforeseen difficulties for many universities.


Total Federal

funds ? (in
millions of


Percent increase

from previous


Fiscal year

1955 1956. 1957. 1958. 1959. 1960. 1961 1962. 1963. 1964. 1965. 1966. 1967 1968. 1969

144 176 224 288 367 459 585 755

900 1,077 1, 194 1,350 1,455 1, 481

22.0 27.0 28.0 27.0 25.0 27.0 29.0 17.0 20.0 11.0 17.0 6.0 1.7

1 Does not include Federal contract research centers and AEC educational research centers.

> Figures for 1955-67 taken from NSF Federal Funds for Research, Development, and Other Scientific Activities, vol. XVII, 1968.

* Estimated at approximately the 1968 level plus or minus 2 percent.

Certain salient aspects of the existing system of support are relevant to the further evolution of national policy and action:

The dominant national urgencies were first perceived in areas demanding progress in the physical and biomedical sciences. Thus the flow of Federal science funds for research and graduate education has been almost exclusively dircted to the natural sciences with only limited and latterly recognition of the needs for and utility of expanding intellectual effort in the social sciences.

Federal funding of universities for purposes other than science (see Table II) has been increasing steadily and rapidly over the past five years. The science funds tend to be highly concentrated and the non-science funds tend to be widely dispersed, so that the shifts in funding are not compensatory for individual institutions. However, in terms of the entire system it is evident that a basic shift in the balance between Federal funds for science and for broader purposes has been taking place. The most significant area of recent growth has been for support of institutions and students in areas other than science-general university and college support and support for the arts and humanities.

Federal support for research expanded rapidly as an indispensable means of achieving national goals. No other sources of funds were able, or could have properly been asked, to foot this bill. As a consequence, a growing proportion of academic research is absolutely dependent upon Federal money. There is no realistic prospect that this situation will change. Private funds are extremely important, but they simply cannot bear the bulk of the cost. State and local funds are also important, particularly in providing basic support for many colleges and universities, but this burden, plus the other demands on their limited resources, will prevent them from assuming the burden of support for academic science that has evolved as a Federal responsibility.

Federal science funds for research and for graduate education now come predominantly through mission agencies whose primary responsibilities are for accomplishment of national purposes in which support for academic science is defined in terms of the tasks of the Federal agency. Thus, the bulk of support for academic science is provided as a derivative and partial activity, largely through devices directed toward discrete and limited seg. ments of university activity (research projects, special training programs, etc.)

All of the Federal agences which support science in universities have been concerned with the effects of their activities on colleges and universities, and they have taken concrete measures to provide broad institutional support on the sound ground that they will depend for years to come on the strength of colleges and universities. However, these commendable initiatives have been and will continue to be limited in the last analysis, to the field for which the Federal agency has responsibility-defense, health, space etc. (and in the case of NSF, for science totally). Even NSF cannot provide funds not related to science or science education.

When NSF was estabilshed in 1950, the National Science Board and the Director were assigned responsibility for (a) supporting basic research and scientific education so as to assure the continued health and vitality of the country's scientific resources and to serve the general welfare and interest and (b) developing and encouraging national policy for science and research. While the National Science Foundation Act has been described as “a commitment by the Federal government to support ... the sciences not for the specific sake of the accomplishment of practical missions” 5 and as "a decisive turning point in the Federal government's relationships to higher education." NSF, for a variety of reasons, has been unable to fulfill its intended role. During the years when mission agency budgets for academic science were growing rapidly. NSF's broad objectives were inadequately supported by Congress, the executive branch, and the scientific community, except for a slight post-Sputnik flurry. Consequently, the abrupt drop in the rate of growth of mission agency budgets in FY 1967 found NSF without the means to offset the uneven effects of the curtailment of funds from the multiple agency sources of major support for academic science. The reduction in NSF's

6 NSF Report to UNESCO on U.S. Science Policy, 1968.

proposed budget for FY 1969 which was imposed by Congress was the severest suffered by any of the agencies which finance academic science. The already overworked and underpaid “physician” became the sickest “patient” of all and the vestigial hope that NSF might somehow cushion the impact of budg. etary stringencies upon the universities disappeared. The only agency which Congress had established for the specific purpose of assuring the integrity of academic science was effectively prevented by Congress from fulfilling its function on the first occasion in history when the agency had become truly essential for the support of academic science. Until now, Congressional action on the NSF FY '70 budget gives little cheer to those who hope for the agency's convalescence this year.

The pattern of diffuse and subordinate attention to the overall needs of science, scientific education, and the universities as institutions is also reflected in Congress. Responsibility for the several Federal agencies whose programs furnish the principal support for academic science is divided among many committees and subcommittees in both the House and the Senate. This complicates the task of directing attention to the problems of basic academic functions of the universities in a context distinct from their use in mission programs or the research interests of individual faculty members. The difficulty is compounded by the current mood of Congressa substantial degree of skepticism and disenchantment as to the national benefits to be derived from science, particularly basic science, aggravated by a hardening attitude toward the universities in general as a result of student dissent and the apparent inability of most administrators and faculties to control campus disorders.

While budgets were expanding, steps were taken which had the effect of providing in a rudimentary way support for graduate education as such. Provision of support on such a rapidly rising curve, for such diverse purposes, and with the degree of freedom that was necessary and proper inevitably involved underpinning to some degree and in some fashion the process of graduate education itself. When budgets began to contract, it became painfully evident in many universities that Federal funds had indeed permeated the financial structure of the entire institution and that the reductions would result not only in a shrinkage in support of research of interest to the Federal government but also in general financial stringencies for the entire

educational proce88. B. Present situation and Immediate Prospects

1. In the context of Academic Science.-As a system for supporting academic science, the devices used by the various Federal agencies have been productive and flexible. This was particularly true during the period of rapidly increasing budgets. But as the rate of increase has slackened and as mandatory cutbacks in expenditure threaten to reduce support, the limitations of the system that were not evident during the earlier period have become very clear.

Means for ensuring stability of support for academic science within individual institutions have proved to be inadequate; means for assisting universities to deal with iuctuating levels of support are inadequate.

For several reasons, the effects of leveling or decreasing Federal research budgets will not be distributed uniformly among universities, and among parts of universities. The characteristics of the group of universities which will as a whole be hardest hit seem clear:

(a) Those with low reserves, shaky state appropriations or slender current endowment income.

(b) Those which have relatively new programs of research and graduate education.

(c) Those which receive a high proportion of their total research support from one or two Federal agencies at this time, particularly NSF.

(d) Those which have made heavy commitments of their own funds in expectation of receiving Federal funds which will not in fact be avail

able. Over the years, an accretion of onerous administrative requirements has tended to multiply red tape, unduly complicate relations between universities and Federal agencies, and increase the costs of operating the system. Federal funds for science must be administered more simply, and accountability for proper use of public funds must be simultaneously enhanced.

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