Federal support for higher education R&D in America has dropped 13% since fiscal year 2011

Federal funding for research at American universities has fallen for a fourth consecutive year, according to new analysis by the US National Science Foundation (NSF). At its peak, federal funding accounted for 62.5% of total US university R&D expenditures in fiscal year 2011. That figure has since dropped to 55.2% in FY 2015, the most recent year for which data are available. Overall, federal funding for higher education R&D in America declined 1.7% between FY 2014 and FY 2015, when adjusted for inflation, and it has fallen 13% since FY 2011. This compares to a 5.1% drop in federal R&D funding of higher education that occurred between FYs 2013 and 2014.

However, as support from the federal and state governments decreased, the NSF found that other sources of university R&D funding increased. For example, universities’ own funding of R&D rose by 5.9% in FY 2015. In fact, overall US university R&D expenditures were up by 2.2% in FY 2015 compared with the previous year, and business expenditures grew by 7.5%.

Among subfields, university R&D expenditures for atmospheric science rose by 14.7%, such funding for astronomy jumped 18.7%, and it increased 10.9% for aeronautical/astronautical engineering. Meanwhile, for chemistry federal support rose 2% in FY 2015, and it ticked up 0.9% for chemical engineering.