The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday January 15th

Research funding at UNC, NC State relatively spared in budget cuts

UNC-CH and N.C. State University are two of only a handful of universities nationwide where research has remained relatively unscathed by state budget cuts in the past decade, according to a recent report.

The report, released last week by the National Science Board, found that state funding per enrolled student had dropped by 20 percent for 101 major public research universities between 2002 and 2010.

UNC-CH has absorbed $9.8 million in state cuts to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research since 2008, which does not factor in additional funding from tuition revenue or enrollment growth to offset the cut, said Barbara Entwisle, UNC-CH’s vice chancellor for research, in an email.

And external support from the federal government and private sources for the state’s leading research institutions has actually increased in recent years, said Terri Lomax, N.C. State’s vice chancellor for research.

UNC-CH’s research funding decreased by about $20.9 million to about $767 million for fiscal year 2012 — mostly due to less money from the federal stimulus law. Yet, research funding has increased by about $50.9 million since 2009.

“North Carolina is really lucky to have two leading public research institutions (UNC-CH and N.C. State) that are really helping the state move forward,” said Jose-Marie Griffiths, a member of the National Science Board.

Out of the 50 states, only seven states did not see a percentage decrease in state funding per student from 2002 to 2010. North Carolina — which saw 0 percent change — ranked seventh.

“North Carolina has strong support from the legislature. They have done well considering the trend,” Griffiths said.

The future of research funding from the state remains uncertain, Lomax said.

She said smaller state research appropriations lead to fiercer competition for grant money, but there should be less pressure on researchers to compete for funding if the economy recovers.

Entwisle said that state funding trends will probably remain the same — at least in the short-term.

“(Research) is the source of new ideas that address major problems of the state, the nation and the world. Research is also the basis of many spin-out companies that contribute to the economy of the state,” Entwisle said.

Griffiths said basic research done by public institutions accounts for more than 60 percent of all research in science, engineering and math in the country.

Lomax also said that research is vital for economic development.

“Research at state universities trains students for the future — they are our future work force and future entrepreneurs,” she said.

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