Archive for Sunday, March 8, 2009

KU to benefit from federal stimulus

Viewed through the front arches of Spooner Hall is Dyche Hall, right of center. At left, in the distance, is Danforth Chapel and Fraser Hall.

Viewed through the front arches of Spooner Hall is Dyche Hall, right of center. At left, in the distance, is Danforth Chapel and Fraser Hall.

March 8, 2009

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With a large pot of federal stimulus money suddenly available and waiting to be spent, one beneficiary of the cash will be Kansas University.

The benefit will come in part from large sums of money targeted for federal organizations that fund KU research, as well as more funds available for low-income students who attend college.

The National Institutes of Health, the largest single funding source for research on the campus, will have an increased budget of 34 percent from stimulus funds over the next two years, and another major financial source for research at KU, the National Science Foundation, will have a 44 percent increase in available money, said Steve Warren, vice provost for research and graduate studies.

The increases mean billions of additional dollars will be available nationwide for research, and KU has already begun to capitalize on the new funds, Warren said.

Although there will be limited new competitions, the additional funds will mostly go toward funding grants already up for submission.

“These are grants that are already in review cycles,” Warren said. “We’re already in that lottery.”

At the beginning of the week, KU had already received three grants funded with stimulus dollars. As those stimulus awards come in, they come with additional guidelines, including rules detailing how quickly the money must be spent.

Some grants must be reworked to fit within a two-year time frame, Warren said.

KU also is working to secure federal funds available through organizations like NIH and NSF for things like building renovations and purchasing equipment.

Such funds are separate from stimulus money that could be provided to the state if the Legislature does not cut funds beyond required levels, Warren said.

KU has put together a group to try to access the funds for equipment and building renovation and likely will be submitting proposals this spring, Warren said.

The money could go toward renovating old labs in Malott and Haworth halls, for example.

“The maximum impact on this campus could be very substantial increases in funding,” Warren said.

The only concern the university has is that the funding is only available for two years, so it’s important to remember that eventually, the increases will go away, he said.

Other stimulus funds will go toward other areas, said Todd Cohen, a university spokesman, including money for federal Pell Grants to lower-income students.

Cohen said stimulus funding will provide a permanent increase in Pell Grant maximum awards to $5,350 annually, from $4,731 for the 2009-10 fiscal year. Cohen said additional increases to the program have been planned in President Barack Obama’s budget proposal.

The grant generally applies to families making $40,000 or less per year. Cohen said KU has about 3,200 Pell-eligible students attending in a given year and expects about 240 more Pell-eligible students in the coming academic year.

More students are submitting federal aid forms, he said.

“We’re about 6 percent above last year in applications for financial aid,” Cohen said.

The stimulus bill also increases the tuition tax credit — known as the Hope Scholarship — from an $1,800 maximum to a $2,500 maximum, which can only be claimed for tuition and fees, Cohen said. The credit does not generally apply to singles who earn more than $58,000 and married couples earning more than $180,000.

Comments

Centerville 6 years, 4 months ago

Thanks to people like my two-year-old neice, who is now saddled with her share ($37,000) of the new federal debt.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 4 months ago

With the Bush war of choice in Iraq, the Bush tax cuts, the Bush deficits, the Bush TARP, and the Obama stimulus, we are indeed in deep debt.

The wealthy in this country will need to be asked to start paying their fair share of taxes. Right now, the top 5% hold 90% of the wealth and only pay around 60% of the taxes.

Kryptenx 6 years, 4 months ago

When your niece gets a $37,000 bill, let me know. I guess I should complain about how much of my property taxes go towards the elementary school she may be attending in 3 years even though I do not need K-12 education and do not plan on having any children in the near future.

Centerville 6 years, 4 months ago

Kryptenex, Don't complain to my neice. Complain to our ridiculous governor.

TacoBob 6 years, 4 months ago

Risking hyperbole from the left and right - here is a question - how does this kind of spending create jobs and stimulate the economy? I can connect the dots on some of it, but seriously, wasn't the stimulus supposed to create mounds of jobs as its primary goal? Looking for more of a one-to-one correlation on this, but much of the 'stimulus' seems many steps away from direct job creation.

Alia Ahmed 6 years, 4 months ago

TacoBob,

I think the way this creates and saves jobs is by the researchers and graduate research assistants are hired or maintain jobs on research projects funded through grants. Due to the economy, grants for research have really dropped off. Researchers, GTA's and clerical staff that support their work pay rent or make house payments, pay taxes, buy clothing and groceries, cars and gasoline with salaries funded by these grants. Wouldn't that stimulate the economy? Grant positions are not long term positions but hopefully once the economy becomes more robust, these folks would obtain jobs in their field of study. Grants also support important research that finds cures for illnesses and interventions for social problems. Though the lowly fruit fly has taken a hit recently in the news, research often starts with fruit flies or mice.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 6 years, 4 months ago

Taco Bob speaks for me as well. The New Deal was about getting unemployed people back to work. This is about funding research for people who are not necessarily connected to real-world production and present-day economic growth. Just because people will eventually pocket this money... that's not necessarily "stimulating".

SchruteFarms86 6 years, 4 months ago

TacoBob and OldEnuf,

Logan72 is correct that this does, in fact, have a very real economic affect on people's lives and on the economy at large. I can demonstrate this in my own life: I'm getting married in the summer, and my fiance is a graduate student at KU. This year, she was able to get funding for her education by being a teaching assistant, but her department likely will not have the money to give her a TA position next year. For funding, she would likely have to be a research assistant -- but that will only happen if her research adviser is able to get a funding grant for a research project she has proposed. If her adviser does not receive that grant, my fiance will be unable to get funding through that route, and we may need to take out loans to pay for her tuition next year.

But if some stimulus money goes to these organizations that offer grants for academic research, this will obviously increase the chances of her adviser receiving that grant. And this flow of money wouldn't just affect us two -- because we will be a low-income household consisting of two people right out of college, that flow of money from the stimulus plan will likely be spent on necessities, rather than just being saved, as a more affluent person might do if he/she received that money.

Further, graduate students who are unable to receive research funding will probably be less likely to stay in school and earn the degree they're seeking, robbing the economy of potentially very skilled worker. And this is not to mention all the possible ways that academic research could help the economy in the long term.

So anyway, the lesson is that to discern how a particular piece of spending might affect the economy -- and individual people's lives -- you often have to look past the surface. John McCain and other Republicans railing about "earmarks" could learn this lesson, as well.

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