topSkip to main content

Menu, Secondary

Menu Trigger


Leading Research Universities Report, October 9, 2023

Microchip with US FlagCongress Falling Short of Funding CHIPS and Science Act

A new report by the Federation of American Scientists highlights the need for AAU’s Fund American Science campaign as it reiterates that Congress is falling far behind in allocating appropriations for research agencies as authorized under the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. The legislation authorized billions of dollars for existing and new programs within federal science agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy Office of Science, to help support domestic research, education, and innovation. The FAS report finds that Congress fell $3 billion short of funding research agencies in FY23 and that FY24 appropriations “to date for research agencies are approximately $7.5 billion below authorized levels.” The outlook for FY24 appropriations for science agencies is unlikely to improve given that the debt ceiling bill passed earlier this year caps FY24 spending at FY23 levels.

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) urged her colleagues to fully fund the CHIPS and Science Act during a Senate hearing last week on the legislation’s implementation and oversight. She noted that previous competitiveness bills “fell short because funding was not realized” and that Congress needs to make the necessary investments to keep the United States globally competitive. “We know that our foreign adversaries are not waiting. We know that our strategic competitors are also moving ahead. And we need to make this investment to … make sure we are innovating and translating our science faster,” she said. Several other members of the committee raised the issue of adequately funding the science portion of CHIPS and Science and asked questions of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan about agency initiatives to build a workforce of the future, inter-agency partnerships, and NSF’s regional innovation engines. AAU will continue to advocate Congress to Fund American Science.

Photo of blocks that say R&DU.S. Higher Education Institutions Spent Nearly $90 Billion on Research and Development in FY21

A new report by the National Science Foundation and the National Science Board found that “institutions of higher education in the United States spent nearly $90 billion on R&D in FY 2021, the highest amount reported to date.” The report found that the majority of this spending was funded by the federal government. The institutions themselves were the second largest source of R&D funding followed by “businesses, nonprofit organizations, state and local governments,” and overseas funding sources. According to the report, university R&D expenditures increased even though the share of federal funding declined over the last ten years (down from 61% in FY12 to 55% in FY21). “Concurrently, the share of R&D spending by U.S. higher education institutions from those institutions’ own funds” rose from 21% in FY12 to 25% in FY21, the report noted.

AAU members are the biggest spenders among colleges and universities when it comes to R&D – nine of out ten universities with the highest R&D spending are AAU institutions.

Notepad with the phrase Student AidAAU, Associations Urge Federal Investments in Scientific Research and Student Aid in FY25

Last month, AAU President Barbara R. Snyder joined Association of Public and Land-grant Universities President Mark Becker in sending a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young urging the Biden-Harris administration to prioritize investments in scientific research and higher education in the president’s FY25 budget request to Congress.

The letter specifically asked the administration to “remember the bold goals set forth in the CHIPS and Science Act to significantly invest in our nation’s scientific research and innovation enterprise.” Fostering a successful government-university-industry partnership and making higher education more accessible and affordable, the letter noted, “is critical to keeping the United States at the forefront of cutting-edge research and innovation and to the education of a highly skilled workforce.”

The Student Aid Alliance, which includes AAU, also sent a letter last month to OMB and the Department of Education requesting “robust support for federal student aid in the FY 2025 budget proposal.” The letter requested significant increases in funding for Pell Grants, campus-based aid, TRIO, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), and Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) to further support students’ financial needs and success. Investing in these higher education programs would boost employment rates and contribute to the economy; “increase socioeconomic diversity and equity;” and “improve economic mobility for those from low socioeconomic backgrounds,” the letter said.

scientists working with samples and a microscopeAAU Institutions Receive Millions in ARPA-H Awards to Solve Some of the Country’s Most Pressing Health Challenges

The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) recently announced more than $330 million in research awards to “support biomedical health breakthroughs aimed at improving health solutions and health care for the American public.” President Biden proposed the creation of ARPA-H in 2021 to streamline and accelerate research in biomedical and health sciences and to improve the health of all Americans. The agency is playing a crucial role in helping achieve the objectives of the Biden administration’s Cancer Moonshot.

In the last few weeks, ARPA-H announced several awards, many at AAU institutions, to fund a variety of initiatives to solve some of the country’s most pressing health challenges. For example, Emory University received up to $24 million to lead a project with Yale University “that aims to train the immune system to better fight cancer and other diseases;” the Harvard Medical School received $104 million to lead a project aimed at addressing the “unfolding crisis of antibiotic resistance;” and the Georgia Institute of Technology received $49.5 million to lead the “development of a new generation of cancer tests capable of detecting multiple types of tumors.” Rice University also received $45 million “to rapidly develop sense-and-respond implant technology that could slash U.S. cancer-related deaths by more than 50%,” while Stanford University received a $26.3 million contract to “bioprint a fully functioning human heart and implant it in a living pig within five years.” Other AAU institutions that recently received ARPA-H awards include: University of Missouri ($19.9 million) to lead an effort to “develop an inexpensive and safe therapy using bacteria specifically selected for tumor-targeting” and Arizona State University ($10 million) and the University of California, San Diego ($9.5 million) for initiatives to improve digital health security research.

Education Department Releases Gainful Employment and Financial Value Transparency Rule

The Department of Education recently released its long-awaited final rule on “gainful employment” and financial value transparency. The gainful employment provisions of the rule require private for-profit institutions and certificate programs at all colleges to use a “debt-to-earnings” ratio to demonstrate that all of their graduates earn enough to afford their student loan repayments. Programs will also need to pass a new “earnings premium test” to show that at least half of their graduates earn more than typical high school graduates in their state without a postsecondary education. Programs that fail to meet established metrics twice in a three-year period will lose access to federal financial aid programs.

The transparency portion of the rule, according to an agency fact sheet, creates a framework to “provide information to all students in all programs on the typical earnings outcomes, borrowing amounts, cost of attendance, and sources of financial aid to help students make more informed choices.” The information will be made available through a new website that will “give students and families a personalized estimate of what they’ll pay out-of-pocket to earn credentials in specific postsecondary programs, along with key information on the debt and earnings outcomes of program graduates.” Prospective students at certificate and graduate degree programs, but not undergraduate degree programs, at all colleges will be required to acknowledge that they have viewed the financial information on the website once it is launched.

Colleges and universities will be required to report data on the gainful employment and transparency provisions starting July 1, 2024; the department expects to launch the website in 2026.

ICYMI: AAU Submits Comment Letter on Proposed Gainful Employment and Financial Transparency Rules

Digital rendering of a ligthbulb with a brainFaculty at AAU Institutions Honored with MacArthur Fellowships

The MacArthur Fellowship, commonly known as a “Genius Grant,” is an $800,000 no-strings-attached prize awarded to 20-30 extraordinarily talented and creative individuals each year. Ten of the 13 academics named in the 2023 class of MacArthur Fellows are affiliated with AAU universities. A complete list of this year’s awardees is available here.

News of Interest

NBC Boston: Boston University Makes History with Hiring of New President – Boston University announced last week that it has named Ohio State University Executive Vice President and Provost Melissa L. Gilliam as its 11th president. Gilliam will be the university’s first woman and first Black president; she succeeds Robert A. Brown, who stepped down earlier this year. Gilliam will start her position on July 1, 2024.

Forbes: Immigrant Nobel Prize Winners Continue to Impress – Four of the six winners of the 2023 Nobel Prizes in medicine, chemistry, and physics are immigrants – Katalin Karikó (born in Hungary), who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work on mRNA technology that gave the world the COVID-19 vaccine; Moungi G. Bawendi (born in France) and Alexei I. Ekimov (born in the former USSR), who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their development of quantum dots; and Pierre Agostini (born in Tunisia), who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for creating “ultra-short pulses of light that can give a snapshot of changes within atoms.” A new report from the National Foundation for American Policy found that immigrants received 36% of all Nobel Prizes in chemistry, medicine, and physics awarded to Americans between 1901 and 2023. The report underscores the need for the United States to stay open to immigration so it can continue to “attract talented and ambitious individuals and benefit from scientific and technological innovation.”

Higher Ed Dive: Supreme Court Won’t Hear Challenge to Visa Program for Foreign Graduates – The Supreme Court has declined to take up a legal challenge against the Optional Practical Training program “that allows foreign students who graduate from U.S. colleges to work in the country for up to three years.” The program benefited more than 117,000 students on nonimmigrant F-1 student visas last year.

Inside Higher Ed: Biden Administration Prepares for Student Debt Relief Negotiations – The Department of Education announced last month that it is getting ready to hold meetings as part of a “lengthy and complicated” negotiated rulemaking process to provide debt relief to student loan borrowers. The department announced the names of individuals who will serve on the negotiated rulemaking committee and released an issue paper laying out some initial policy considerations for the committee to discuss.

The Washington Post: Johns Hopkins Opens New D.C. Academic Center in an Old Museum Site – Students are already taking classes at Johns Hopkins University’s new academic center in Washington, DC. The center will house several academic units, including the School of Advanced International Studies and the soon-to-be-launched School of Government and Policy. “What this represents is the physical manifestation of the university’s commitment to national and international engagement,” said Johns Hopkins President Ron Daniels.

Featured Research

An open faucet pouring water into glass

A Reliable Sensor That Can Screen for Water Contaminants

A team of researchers, including molecular engineers at the University of Chicago, have “devised a pathway for the mass manufacture of sensors able to simultaneously detect lead, mercury and E. coli in flowing tap water.” The researchers hope that the innovation will help improve public health by providing early warnings for water contamination.


Scientists Unveil Fire-Safe Fuel

Chemical engineers at the University of California, Riverside have designed a fuel that does not react to flames and “ignites only with the application of electric current.” The fire-safe fuel would help prevent accidental fires during storage or transport and, theoretically, could be used in vehicles.

From Our Feeds


AAU Tweet about recent nobel prize winners

This year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, previously won the Golden Goose Award, which honors curiosity-driven research conducted with federal support that has led to major scientific breakthroughs. Read more about Karikó and Weissman and their long journey to making mRNA a viable therapeutic on the Golden Goose Award website.