Lawmakers Show Sympathy for Trump Plan to Squeeze Research Costs

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Published by The Chronicle of Higher Education

Outside the hearing, however, some experts said universities may be willing to accept more cuts in their indirect-cost rates than they’d admit in public. That’s because a strong program in federally-sponsored science may be providing universities with benefits that outweigh the associated administrative and facilities costs of hosting the research.

A top research program helps institutions enroll high-quality students, own patents and intellectual property, and develop industry alliances and philanthropic support, said Richard A. Hesel, a principal at the Art & Science Group, a higher-education consulting firm.

For some universities, said Gregory C. Wolniak of New York University, those advantages could clearly compensate for lower indirect-cost payments. Mr. Wolniak, a clinical associate professor of higher education, said that tuition accounts for a very high share of the revenue for NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.

"All we hear about is the need to bring in more grant money," said Mr. Wolniak, director of the Center for Research on Higher Education Outcomes. "But at the end of the day, attracting students does a lot more for the finances."

Both Mr. Hesel and Mr. Wolniak cautioned, however, that circumstances may vary widely between universities. The institutions most likely to be hurt by a cut in indirect-cost payments, they said, are probably those struggling the hardest to compete.

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