Large research universities, like Penn State, heavily rely on funding from the government for research efforts. Penn State received $848 million in funding last year. Officials say that’s a record for the university - but one that is not likely to be repeated.
“Our income, which proceeds the expenditures, has gone down a bit,” says Neil Sharkey, the Interim Vice President for Research at Penn State. “Last year, that fell off about 10%.”
Research funding cuts at large universities, like those impacting Penn State, aren’t just hurting those who are working on today’s research.
“That funding is helping to educate graduate students, post-docs and undergraduate students,” says Sharkey. “The system is quite reliant on producing the next generation of innovators and scientists to carry the torch forward.”
“You’re going to be a lot more tight on what you purchase,” says Mike Flock, a graduate student and Ph.D. candidate in the nutritional sciences program at Penn State. “You might have to go with the lower grade kit to do something and you wouldn’t normally because of these funding constraints. So, as a student, you might not have as many amazing resources. They’re still here; they haven’t gone anywhere but the supplies for those resources can be a little more limited.”
Even with the cuts, Flock and other students believe Penn State is doing its best to continue its rank as a top research university.
“It really depends on how the labs and how the departments are kind of juggling,” says Flock. “It’s not an easy time, by any means. [We must] Continue doing what we’ve been doing – solid research. Funding is tight but continuing utilizing what we have and moving forward.”
Neil Sharkey agrees, saying the people who conduct research at Penn State are resilient with their research efforts. He also says he believes Penn State’s rank may actually improve because the university conducts research in fields like agriculture and engineering – where as other top research universities do not.