Challenges to Research Universities

Brookings Institution Press
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The American research university enjoyed an unprecedented boom from the end of World War II until the 1990s. All sources of financial support for universities--federal grants, private gifts, state appropriations, student tuition, and revenues from university medical centers--grew substantially. As a result, traditionally prestigious universities expanded and numerous other universities were transformed from primarily teaching institutions to significant research centers. But in the 1990s, research universities have experienced the first protracted challenge to the boom of the preceeding four decades. This book examines the nature of the challenges to research universities, and their likely effects on the number, size, and operation of these universities. The authors assess the prospects for research support from government, industry, and profits from university medical centers, and conclude that the future does not appear bright in these cases. They also examine the methods used by the federal government to pay for university research, and propose changes that would make both universities and the federal government better off by reducing the administrative costs of federal grants. Their primary conclusion is that in the next decade American research universities will face increasingly stringent budgets, and will be forced to shrink and refocus their activities in order to survive as research institutions.
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About the author

Roger G. Noll is professor of economics at Stanford University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Dec 1, 2010
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Pages
217
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ISBN
9780815708087
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Finance
Education / Higher
Education / Research
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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American public policy has had a long history of technological optimism. The success of the United States in research and development contributes to this optimism and leads many to assume that there is a technological fix for significant national problems. Since World War II the federal government has been the major supporter of commercial research and development efforts in a wide variety of industries. But how successful are these projects? And equally important, how do economic and policy factors influence performance and are these influences predictable and controllable?

Linda Cohen, Roger Noll, and three other economists address these questions while focusing on the importance of R&D to the national economy. They examine the codependency between technological progress and economic growth and explain such matters as why the private sector often fails to fund commercially applicable research adequately and why the government should focus support on some industries and not others. They also analyze political incentives facing officials who enact and implement programs and the subsequent forces affecting decisions to continue, terminate, or redirect them. The central part of this book presents detailed case histories of six programs: the supersonic transport, communications satellites, the space shuttle, the breeder reactor, photovoltaics, and synthetic fuels. The authors conclude with recommendations for program restructuring to minimize the conflict between economic objectives and political constraints.

The rise of American research universities to international preeminence constitutes one of the most important episodes in the history of higher education. Research and Relevant Knowledge follows Geiger's earlier volume on American research universities from 1900 to 1940. This second work is the first study to trace this momentous development in the post-World War II period. It describes how the federal government first relied on university scientists during the war, and how the resulting relationship set the pattern for the postwar mushrooming of academic research.

The first half of the book analyzes the development of the postwar system of academic research, exploring the contributions of foundations, defense agencies, and universities. The second half depicts the rise of the "golden age" of academic research in the years after Sputnik (1957) and its eventual dissolution at the end of the 1960s graduate education. When the federal patron soon reduced its largesse, university students took the lead in challenging the putative hegemony of academic research. The loss of consensus quickly brought the malaise of the 1970s--stagnation, frustration, and equivocation about the research role. The final chapter appraises the renaissance of the 1980s, based largely on a rapprochement with the private sector, and ends by evaluating the embattled status of research universities at the beginning of the 1990s.

Research and Relevant Knowledge provides the first authoritative analytical account of American research universities during their most fateful half-century. It will be of critical importance to all those concerned with the future of higher education in the United States.

Roger L. Geiger is Distinguished Professor of Higher Education at the Pennsylvania State University. He has edited the History of Higher Education Annual since 1993, was a section editor for the Encyclopedia of Higher Education, and is the author of The American College in the Nineteenth Century, Private Sectors in Higher Education, and To Advance Knowledge, available from Transaction.
Not many Americans think of the legal profession as a monopoly, but it is. Abraham Lincoln, who practiced law for nearly twenty-five years, would likely not have been allowed to practice today. Without a law degree from an American Bar Association–sanctioned institution, a would-be lawyer is allowed to practice law in only a few states. ABA regulations also prevent even licensed lawyers who work for firms that are not owned and managed by lawyers from providing legal services. At the same time, a slate of government policies has increased the demand for lawyers' services. Basic economics suggests that those entry barriers and restrictions combined with government-induced demand for lawyers will continue to drive the price of legal services even higher.

Clifford Winston, Robert Crandall, and Vikram Maheshri argue that these increased costs cannot be economically justified. They create significant social costs, hamper innovation, misallocate the nation's labor resources, and create socially perverse incentives. In the end, attorneys support inefficient policies that preserve and enhance their own wealth, to the detriment of the general population.

To fix this situation, the authors propose a novel solution: deregulation of the legal profession. Lowering the barriers to entry will force lawyers to compete more intensely with each other and to face competition from nonlawyers and firms that are not owned and managed by lawyers. The book provides a much-needed analysis of why legal costs are so high and how they can be reduced without sacrificing the quality of legal services.

America is in the midst of a sports building boom. Professional sports teams are demanding and receiving fancy new playing facilities that are heavily subsidized by government. In many cases, the rationale given for these subsidies is that attracting or retaining a professional sports franchise—even a minor league baseball team or a major league pre-season training facility--more than pays for itself in increased tax revenues, local economic development, and job creation.

But are these claims true? To assess the case for subsidies, this book examines the economic impact of new stadiums and the presence of a sports franchise on the local economy. It first explores such general issues as the appropriate method for measuring economic benefits and costs, the source of the bargaining power of teams in obtaining subsidies from local government, the local politics of attracting and retaining teams, the relationship between sports and local employment, and the importance of stadium design in influencing the economic impact of a facility.

The second part of the book contains case studies of major league sports facilities in Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and the Twin Cities, and of minor league stadiums and spring training facilities in baseball. The primary conclusions are: first, sports teams and facilities are not a source of local economic growth and employment; second, the magnitude of the net subsidy exceeds the financial benefit of a new stadium to a team; and, third, the most plausible reasons that cities are willing to subsidize sports teams are the intense popularity of sports among a substantial proportion of voters and businesses and the leverage that teams enjoy from the monopoly position of professional sports leagues.

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