Education has been a basic right in our country for so long that it has begun to become unappreciated and disrespected. While the foundation of the right to basic access to knowledge was built because of the discrimination of minorities and inaccessibility to all but the upper classes, today it’s not only available, but it’s expected to be funded by the local, state, and federal governments.
The costs of school and who pays for those fees change as the level of education rises, and at some point, the majority of the overhead becomes the burden of the student through loans and grants. But when it comes to research, the expense can be so significant that it’s impossible to cover without help. The need for funding in research and education is crucial, but as technology brings an overhaul to how experiments are performed and the level of impact they can make, there has been a fundamental shift in how research is funded, with a continued change on the horizon.
An Overview of the History of Funding Education
The United States is not the only country where basic education is perceived as a fundamental right, with the government’s duty being to ensure that everyone has access to this knowledge. The government must finance education and citizens are often required by law to go to school at a certain age or education level.
But this legal expectation and requirement is less than two centuries old. In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution and other factors moved many countries out of survival mode and into the understanding that for their societies to improve, their citizens must be educated. Governments began to fund schools and expand education initiatives by using local and state taxes. This meant that areas where people couldn’t afford to pay the extra taxes usually had the lowest quality education resources.
By the middle of the 20th century, access to education was in demand everywhere around the world. Governments understood that citizens were more likely to be instrumental in the growth of society if they were educated. They were less likely to engage in criminal and destructive behavior, and more likely to bring in taxable income. Inequality in education based on race, age, and gender was on the decline and remains an active part of continuing education reform.
But although basic education had government backing, now that so many people were seeing the value of a higher knowledge base, colleges and universities began to increase in popularity. Piggy-backed on that increase came the understanding that the world needed more research to continue to make innovative movements forward, but who would pay for those important experiments?
Government and Alternate Funding
The governments have funded research in the past, but it was usually focused on agriculture or military technology. Science research was funded by philanthropic donations, local industries, and the university conducting the experiments. But in 1919, corporations became a part of academic research, and in 1931, grants were a predominant part of the research. Private grants began declining significantly after the stock market crash, requiring a change in order for research to continue. In the late 1940s, federal money began to be allocated to fund technology that could increase military efficiency, and government funding of sciences like environmental, life, physical, math, and computer fields have risen significantly since then.
But there has been an almost palpable shift in research funding as the government’s spending deficit has required so many cuts. Alternate funding through private sources, corporations, and foundations has turned into the primary source of research funding. These avenues are full of obstacles for scholars to overcome, between the global competition of limited resources to the problems of potential bias and high expectations of the funders.
This shift in funding from federal sources to alternate avenues has begun to be seen clearly over the past decade, with an increased chance projected to be even more of a move away from government involvement in research. Academic scholars will have to learn how to find alternative funding sources in a field where competition is fierce and funds continue to dwindle.