that increase both its productivity and its effectiveness in providing training for highly productive careers;

•  Demographic change in the U.S. population that necessitates strategies for increasing the success of female and underrepresented minority students; and

•  Competition for international students, researchers, and scholars.

We will need strong leadership from the federal government, our state capitals, business, and our higher education institutions to overcome these hurdles, address our challenges, and capitalize on our opportunities and the partnerships that will allow our research universities and, through them, our nation, to thrive.


America’s public research universities, in scale and breadth, are the backbone of advanced education and research in the United States today. They conduct most of the nation’s academic research (62 percent) while producing the majority of its scientists, engineers, doctors, teachers, and other learned professionals (70 percent). They are committed to public engagement in every area where knowledge and expertise can make a difference: basic and applied research, agricultural and industrial extension, economic development, health care, national security, and cultural enrichment.2 In fact, it was the public research university, through its land-grant tradition, its strong engagement with society, and its commitment to educational opportunity in the broadest sense, that was instrumental in creating the middle class, transforming American agriculture and industry into the economic engine of the world during the 20th century, and defending democracy during two world wars.

Yet today, despite their importance to their states, the nation, and the world, America’s public research universities are at great risk. There is ample evidence from the past three decades of declining support that the states are simply not able—or willing—to provide the resources to sustain growth in public higher education, at least at the rate experienced in the decades following World War II. Despite the growth in enrollments and the increasing demand for university services such as health care and economic development, most states will find it difficult to sustain even the present capacity and quality of their institutions. In the wake of the recent global financial crisis, many states have already enacted drastic


2 Paul N. Courant, James J. Duderstadt, and Edie N. Goldenberg, Needed: A national strategy to preserve public research universities, The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 3, 2010.

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