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Funding, Grants & Awards

Fed Spending on Science & Engineering Dipped Slightly

Obligations from federal agencies to academic institutions for science and engineering (S&E) dropped from $31.1 billion in fiscal year 2014 to $30.5 billion in fiscal year 2015, according to a new report from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Representing a 2 percent decline in current dollars, the drop was reported in Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions.

The number of institutions receiving federal obligations remained relatively steady, climbing from 1,003 in 2014 to 1,016 the following year.

The vast majority, 85 percent, of all obligated funds came from just three agencies: NSF, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DOD).

NSF increased its financial obligations year over year by $200 million, or 4 percent. HHS and DOD both decreased their obligations, with DOD making the deeper cut, at $500 million, or 3 percent.

Johns Hopkins University was the leading recipient of federal obligations, raking in nearly $1.6 billion in federally promised funding in 2015. The University of Washington was a distant second, at about $660 million, and U Michigan trailed slightly at about $647 million.

The top 20 recipients accounted for more than a third, 36 percent, of all federal obligations. The top 20 also remained the same from year to year, with one exception: Cornell University fell from No. 20 to 25, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology moved from No. 21 to take its spot.

Minority-serving institutions (MSIs), which include historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), institutions serving a large percentage of Hispanic enrollments and tribal colleges and universities, saw the amount of federal money obligated to them rise for the third straight year, increasing about 1 percent, or about $11.5 million. All obligations to MSIs were $783 million, or about 3 percent of total obligations to all academic institutions. The MSIs receiving the greatest federal obligations in 2015 were New Mexico State University at nearly $49 million, Florida International University with $45 million and Morehouse School of Medicine at $30 million. The top 20 MSIs received 56 percent of S&E obligations to academic institutions.

To access the full report, visit

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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