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News Release 96-064

Federal Support Declines for University R&D Facilities

October 28, 1996

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The nation's top universities are postponing construction of new science and engineering (S&E) research facilities. Instead they are spending funds to shore up existing facilities--even as they report decreasing S&E building space on their campuses.

These are among overall findings in a new National Science Foundation report, Scientific and Engineering Facilities at Universities and Colleges, 1996. The biennial report synthesizes data on space available for S&E research in U.S. colleges and universities, adequacy and condition of this space, construction and repair, funding sources and S&E research facility needs.

Federal contributions to S&E facility construction declined in constant dollars from $541 million in 1990-91 to $207 million in 1994-95. In this same period, funding from state governments and contributions from the institutions themselves remained steady, but private-sector support declined.

"This large decline in Federal support for construction should be watched over the coming years to see if it is a trend," cautions Ann Lanier, the report's project director.

Among the findings in the NSF report:

  • At least half the research institutions reported inadequate amounts of research space in biological sciences, physical sciences, engineering, agricultural sciences, and medical sciences.

  • In 1996, 18 percent of S&E research space at research institutions needed major renovation or replacement -- about 24.5 million usable square feet.

  • Expenditures for repair or renovation increased from $905 million in 1992-93 to $1.1 billion in 1994-95, an increase of 17 percent in constant dollars. These projects were primarily funded through institutional funds.

  • In fiscal years 1994-95, research colleges and universities began S&E research construction projects costing $2.8 billion, representing a continued decline in the construction of S&E research space. That figure was $3.0 billion in 1992-93, and $3.4 billion in 1990-91.

  • Academic institutions in 1996 deferred $7.4 billion in S&E research construction and repair projects due to lack of funds.

  • These trends were similar at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). In 1996, half the HBCUs reported inadequate S&E research space in engineering and the biological sciences outside of medical schools. The amount spent to construct S&E research space at research HBCUs declined from $37.6 million in 1992 to $21.3 million in 1996 in constant dollars. They reported $302 million deferred for S&E capital projects.


Media Contacts
George Chartier, NSF, (703) 306-1070, email:

Program Contacts
Ann Lanier, NSF, (703) 306-1774, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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