Public Research Universities: Why They Matter


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The Lincoln Project: Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education

Public research universities have experienced a greater decline in state appropriations (as a percentage of operating revenue) than either community colleges or master’s colleges or universities, threatening both the educational and research missions of these fundamental U.S. institutions. Most universities have instituted new programs to reduce costs, but years of dramatic budget cuts have left little room for austerity: public research universities increasingly are expected to serve more Americans with less funding. In response to this need, the Lincoln Project is developing new strategies for ensuring that public research universities continue to serve the nation as engines of innovation, growth, and opportunity for Americans of all backgrounds.

This is the first in a series of five publications that will examine the importance of our public research universities. Subsequent publications will include detailed overviews of challenges facing higher education funding at the state level; the current financial models of public research universities and how they are changing; and the myriad impacts of the research conducted at these institutions on people, the economy, and the nation. Ultimately, the Lincoln Project will offer substantive policy recommendations for sustaining public research universities and will call on all funding partners—states, the federal government, philanthropies, business, and the public—to maintain and enhance their investment in them.