UT's Small Spending on Research

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602 S. Gay Street
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Knoxville, TN 37902

Thanks for the distressing report on the challenges the University of Tennessee and its new president face [“Volunteer Work” by Jesse Fox Mayshark, Jan. 20, 2011]. It seems that UT cannot even take good advantage of Oak Ridge: A nuclear engineering program next door to an original nuke research site ranks no better than ninth in the nation. Those who do not value education—those who refuse to pay for excellence—condemn UT to permanent mediocrity. I dare you to show me a top university that achieved its ranking on the cheap. For fiscal year 2009 the whole UT system spent $285 million on research for a ranking of 48th among public universities. For comparison, a neighbor, VA Polytechnic Institute and State University at 28th, spent $396 million. The two public schools U.S. News and World report ranks as #1 (UC-Berkeley) and #2 (UCLA) spent $652 and $889 million, respectively. Without substantial investment in education, Tennessee will never create much of an economy. To our credit, state and local contributions to the UT research funding pot were significant, 10 times that of research-spending leader University of Michigan (all figures from the National Science Foundation). But we have to spend more for facilities, equipment, and salaries to attract talent and crucial federal funding. We will have to pay, and that may mean an income tax.

John Ledbetter

Lenoir City

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