Public Release: 

Federal Support Declines For University R&D Facilities

National Science Foundation

The nation's top universities are postponing construction of new science and engineering (S&E) research facilities. Instead they are spending funds to shore up existing facilities -- even as they report decreasing S&E building space on their campuses.

These are among overall findings in a new National Science Foundation report, Scientific and Engineering Facilities at Universities and Colleges, 1996. The biennial report synthesizes data on space available for S&E research in U.S. colleges and universities, adequacy and condition of this space, construction and repair, funding sources and S&E research facility needs.

Federal contributions to S&E facility construction declined in constant dollars from $541 million in 1990-91 to $207 million in 1994-95. In this same period, funding from state governments and contributions from the institutions themselves remained steady, but private-sector support declined.

"This large decline in Federal support for construction should be watched over the coming years to see if it is a trend," cautions Ann Lanier, the report's project director.

Among the findings in the NSF report:

  • At least half the research institutions reported inadequate amounts of research space in biological sciences, physical sciences, engineering, agricultural sciences, and medical sciences.

  • In 1996, 18 percent of S&E research space at research institutions needed major renovation or replacement -- about 24.5 million usable square feet.

  • Expenditures for repair or renovation increased from $905 million in 1992-93 to $1.1 billion in 1994-95, an increase of 17 percent in constant dollars. These projects were primarily funded through institutional funds.

  • In fiscal years 1994-95, research colleges and universities began S&E research construction projects costing $2.8 billion, representing a continued decline in the construction of S&E research space. That figure was $3.0 billion in 1992-93, and $3.4 billion in 1990-91.

  • Academic institutions in 1996 deferred $7.4 billion in S&E research construction and repair projects due to lack of funds.

  • These trends were similar at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). In 1996, half the HBCUs reported inadequate S&E research space in engineering and the biological sciences outside of medical schools. The amount spent to construct S&E research space at research HBCUs declined from $37.6 million in 1992 to $21.3 million in 1996 in constant dollars. They reported $302 million deferred for S&E capital projects.

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