Despite seeing research spending at the University of Minnesota triple in real dollars over the past three decades, a recent study by one of the university's own economists suggests that hasn't been good enough to keep up with its peers.
The report looked at spending on research from 1972 to 2004 at 805 universities nationwide and found that the university's rank among all public and private colleges dropped from 19th to 26th. News reports of the study lamented the fall, highlighting pleas for the state Legislature to step up its commitment to the university.
The self-immolation may be a bit overdone. In the latest rankings of research and development spending (based on 2004 figures), Minnesota ranked eighth among all public universities. In 2006, the university estimated R&D expenditures of $576 million, according to the university's annual research.
But that same report highlighted concerns over the trend line of R&D spending growth at the university. Among a group of 17 public peers, Minnesota ranked 16th in growth of federal research funding (the major funding source for all universities) from 1996 to 2004. That has allowed lower-ranked universities to close the gap and created a gap of $75 million with the university immediately ahead of it (Penn State) and one of almost $200 million with the top six public universities.
—Ronald A. Wirtz