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Useful Stats: Nearly 90 percent of all federal support to colleges and universities for science & engineering in 2019 came from just three agencies

August 12, 2021
By: Colin Edwards

Federal funding is a major source of support for the science and engineering (S&E) activities of the nation’s institutions of higher education (IHEs). This week’s edition of Useful Stats shows that in 2019 (the most recent year for which data is available), the vast majority — 87.6 percent or $33.4 billion— of that federal support came from only three agencies: the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Defense (DoD). This analysis builds on our previous article using NSF’s data from the Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions to show that while the remaining agencies contributed relatively little to the national S&E effort of IHEs, there was still a wide range in the mix of agency funding at the state level in 2019.

Nationally, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) accounted for 59.4 percent ($22.6 billion) of all federal S&E support to IHEs in 2019, followed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) (15.9 percent, $6.1 billion); the Department of Defense (DoD) (12.3 percent, $4.7 billion); the Department of Energy (DOE) (3.6 percent, $1.4 billion); the Department of Agriculture (USDA) (3.3 percent, $1.2 billion); and NASA (2.8 percent, $1.1 billion). Combined, the remaining agencies (Department of Commerce (DOC), Department of the Interior (DOI), Department of Education (ED), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and others*) accounted for 2.7 percent ($1.0 billion) of total federal support to IHEs for S&E in 2019.

As seen in the interactive graphic below, funding obligations for S&E to IHEs in 2019 from HHS accounted for the greatest share of agency funding in most states and territories. States where HHS accounted for the greatest share of federal S&E obligations in 2019 were Connecticut (80.8 percent, $556 million); Missouri (80.4 percent, $612 million); Kentucky (75.8 percent, $225 million); North Carolina (75.6 percent, $1.257 billion); and, New York (73.4 percent, $2.321 billion). The areas where S&E support to IHEs from HHS accounted for the lowest share of the total in 2019 were Wyoming (23.1 percent, $10.5 million); Idaho (21.3 percent, $15.2 million); Alaska (13.1 percent, $15.1 million); Maine (10.3 percent, $7.1 million); and, the Virgin Islands (10.1 percent, $0.6 million).

Pro tip: Hover over states in the map to show total support, agency shares, and the top three funding agencies and the amounts. Click on a state to highlight its chart in the grid below. Hold ‘Ctrl’ while clicking on multiple states to highlight several at once. Click on an agency in the color legend to highlight that agency across all states.

               

While NSF accounted for a much smaller share of the national total of federal S&E support to IHEs in 2019 when compared to HHS, there were several states where NSF support accounted for a significant share of the total. The areas where NSF constituted the greatest share of S&E obligations in 2019 were Wyoming (59.3 percent, $27.1 million); the Virgin Islands (52.9 percent, $2.9 million); Alaska (49.9 percent, $57.8 million); South Dakota (43.8 percent, $19.9 million); and, Idaho (42.6 percent, $30.4 million). The areas with the lowest shares of NSF S&E support for IHEs in 2019 were Connecticut (9.5 percent, $65.4 million); Utah (9.1 percent, $49.8 million); Missouri (6.4 percent, $48.9 million); Vermont (6.2 percent, $5.7 million); and Maryland (4.7 percent, $113.7 million).

Nationally, DoD was the only other single agency that accounted for more than 10 percent of total federal S&E support to IHEs in 2019. The states with the greatest concentration of DoD obligations to colleges and universities for S&E in 2019 were Maryland (40.5 percent, $979.2 million); Georgia (37.8 percent, $520.3 million); Mississippi (28.2 percent, $60.9 million); Maine (25.9 percent; $17.9 million); and, Utah (21.8 percent, $119 million). The areas where DoD funding accounted for the lowest share of total S&E support to IHEs in 2019 were North Dakota (2.4 percent, $1.2 million); Puerto Rico (2 percent, $1.9 million); South Dakota (1.9 percent, $0.87 million); Wyoming (1.9 percent, $0.86 million); and, the Virgin Islands (0.2 percent, $9,500).

For details on the remaining agencies, please reference the interactive map above, or click here for the SSTI spreadsheet used in this analysis.

*The category ”Other” includes the Agency for International Development, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Social Security Administration.

useful stats, federal agency r&d, higher ed