College hits new external funding highs

By Katherine Klingseis,

External funding for Iowa State increased this year by 27 percent, or $83 million.

Each year, Iowa State receives external funding in addition to the fiscal year state appropriation. External funding is classified as grants, gifts, contracts and cooperative agreements.

Iowa State received $231 million from state appropriation and $388.2 million from external funding in 2010. The previous record for external funding, set in 2009, was $305.2 million.

“I think there’s been an emphasis on us needing to increase our enterprise in order to do the things we want to do,” said Sharron Quisenberry, vice president for research and economic development. “I think that has a lot to do with [the increase in funding].”

External funding is awarded to Iowa State by federal, state and local government sources, as well as from corporations, foundations and other universities.

State governments nationwide have not been able to give as much money as they have in the past. This decrease in state funding has caused many universities to look elsewhere.

“There’s an understanding now that states can’t come through the way they used to and that we are going to have to go out and try to obtain funding in order to run our programs,” Quisenberry said.

Federal agencies are the sources of most of the external funding. The U.S. Department of Energy, Iowa State’s largest source of external funding, provided the university with $59.3 million. The U.S. Department of Agriculture was the second largest provider, giving $51.9 million. The National Science Foundation gave Iowa State $46.8 million, which was the third largest amount.

“[Federal agencies donate] because of the quality of science at Iowa State,” Quisenberry said. “[The grants] are extremely competitive, and most agencies, of all the grants submitted, only have 10 percent acceptance rate, so it deals with the science.”

Competitive awards from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also provided Iowa State with $21.1 million. ARRA was set up by Congress in 2009 to jump-start the economy by creating jobs and promoting investment and consumer spending. ARRA has awarded $84 million of Education Department Recovery Act grants, as of May 14.

The ISU foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to securing and managing gifts and grants for Iowa State, was the largest source of non-federal funding, giving $42.5 million. The second largest non-federal amount, $38.7 million, was awarded to Iowa State by businesses and corporations like John Deere, MidAmerican Energy and Texas Instruments. The state, county and city governments gave the third largest amount, $35.1 million.

“I think with businesses, it’s not just the quality of science [that attracts their money], but also Iowa State’s reputation,” Quisenberry said. “Quality of work is always the most important thing.”

External funding is used by the university for several different things: student financial aid, building maintenance, equipment, educational projects and extension activities.

Approximately 62 percent, or $239.2, of the $388.2 million was for research projects. The money was distributed based on proposals written by ISU faculty and staff.

Some of the research projects include studying bio fuels, researching plant varieties and developing vaccines.

“It’s phenomenal, the number of different projects,” Quisenberry said. “It’s all the way from the bio sciences, the life sciences, to engineering, and it’s a very unique situation.”

The research projects span many different departments. Each research project has the potential to impact society.

Quisenberry said, “They’ve already impacted the state of Iowa and continue to do so, but I think that impact is growing through time.”

(Originally posted on on July 21, 2010)

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