Special Report

Universities Getting the Most Money from the Federal Government

15. University of California, San Francisco
> Total federal funds: $535.5 million
> Annual R&D expenditure: $1.1 billion
> 2015 enrollment: 3,107
> 2016 endowment: $1.1 billion

The San Francisco campus of the University of California school system is just a graduate school, and as a result is the smallest school on this list by far, with a Fall 2015 enrollment of just 3,107. Despite its size, it is one of only 10 higher education institutions in the U.S. to spend more than a $1 billion on R&D in 2015. That year, the school received some $535.5 million in federal grants.

The university is home to the UCSF School of Medicine — one of the most renowned medical schools in the country. As a result, the vast majority of federal research dollars the school receives come from Department of Health and Human Services. The broader University of California system was awarded a combined 489 patents in 2015, more than any other academic body in the world.

Source: Thinkstock

14. Harvard University
> Total federal funds: $550.5 million
> Annual R&D expenditure: $1.0 billion
> 2015 enrollment: 29,652
> 2016 endowment: $34.5 billion

While most federal R&D grants are directed to science and engineering projects, Harvard may have more independence in its research due to its $34.5 billion endowment — the largest of any academic institution. Harvard dedicates an estimated 9.6% of its R&D spending to the social sciences, roughly three times the 3.4% average for all universities. The bulk of Harvard’s social science R&D spending is in the field of political science and is financed by the school’s internal funds. Still, like most major research institutions, a majority of Harvard’s R&D expenditures are dedicated to the life sciences and are largely funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Source: Thinkstock

13. University of Wisconsin-Madison
> Total federal funds: $551.4 million
> Annual R&D expenditure: $1.1 million
> 2015 enrollment: 42,716
> 2016 endowment: $2.4 billion

University of Wisconsin-Madison received $551.4 million from the federal government in 2015, which comprised nearly half of the school’s total R&D spending that year. The school spends most of its R&D dollars on life sciences research, including a substantial amount to biology. The university is home to a one-of-a-kind 1,700 acre arboretum described as the oldest and most diverse restored ecosystem collections in the world. Of the school’s government R&D funding, 51.3% comes from the Department of Health and Human Services, and 16.8% is granted by the National Science Foundation.

Source: Thinkstock

12. Georgia Institute of Technology
> Total federal funds: $562.6 million
> Annual R&D expenditure: $765.4 million
> 2015 enrollment: 25,034
> 2016 endowment: $1.8 billion

Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the largest research universities in the world. Georgia Tech was awarded 72 patents in 2015, among the most of any academic institution worldwide. One of the major centers of innovation on campus is Georgia Tech Research Institute, an applied research contractor for the DOD and the largest employer of Georgia Tech students. The Army and the Air Force are the largest sponsors of GTRI research. Likely as a result, the Department of Defense funds 68% of all Georgia Tech R&D spending, nearly the largest share of any school. Life sciences fields are typically the largest recipients of R&D expenditures. Georgia Tech is the exception. The university dedicates about 70% of its R&D spending to engineering projects, compared to 16% universities spend on average on engineering projects.

11. Duke University
> Total federal funds: $562.8 million
> Annual R&D expenditure: $1.0 billion
> 2015 enrollment: 15,984
> 2016 endowment: $6.8 billion

Duke University received $562.8 million in federal research funding in 2015, just over half of its total R&D budget. Located in North Carolina, Duke is likely able to make up much of the difference with tuition payments and gains on its substantial endowment. Full tuition at the university is now approximately $60,000 per year. For reference, average annual tuition and fees at private colleges is $33,376, according to U.S. News and World Report. Duke’s endowment of $6.8 billion is one of the nation’s largest.

About 60% of the university’s 2015 R&D spending was in medical sciences. The university owns and operates the Duke University Health System, which includes Duke University Hospital, one of the largest and most renowned hospitals in the country. Duke Health system is one of the largest private employers in the state.

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