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Did you know $9 billion was cut from the Department of Education’s budget in 2018? This means that there is less money to give to educational institutions overall. And Colleges are having to become much more competitive to receive the money they need. But many will lose out in the coming years. US colleges apply for funding from various government sources, but the 2019 budget is proposing to cut funding from nine of the 15 government departments. Luckily, this list will show you which colleges are most likely to still benefit from the remaining funding after these cuts.

To know which colleges are most likely to lose funding, you need to look at what a college has done to harm its chances.  USA Today interviewed Terry Hartle, the senior vice president of the American Council on Education, who said, “The government can withdraw federal funding […] but it’s typically because of fraud or research misconduct.” With that in mind, which colleges have the best reputations? And which ones can ensure that they’ll get government funding for years to come? This article will provide the answers.

Before you commit to a college, you need to research upon its current government funding levels and the things that could jeopardize them. If there has been fraud or research misconduct recently, then that’s a sure warning sign.

So how can you identify a great and secure college, government funding-wise? There are several things to look out for, and this list will show you them by giving examples. The 30 colleges below get vast sums of money from the government and have strong records of professionalism. Even if none of the colleges on this list are right for you, you can still utilize this ranking by comparing the selections to your own choices, to see how their records compare.


To compile our list, we initially looked into government lists, press articles and academic site specialist lists of colleges that are considered successful users of state and federal funding. We then performed extensive research upon the top performers in these sources. We’ve researched instances of fraud or research misconduct, ensuring that any incidents are not likely to have a long-term impact. We’ve also ensured that their government funding has been either rising or at consistent levels in recent years.

Interestingly, the only government department that currently provides lists of its most successful and least successful college grant recipients is the USDA , or the United States Department of Agriculture . This department awards grants to a range of study areas, including plant health, animal health, food safety, bioenergy, technology, and rural community economics. These USDA lists have been used, as they are a good indicator of colleges gaining funding from across the government.

Our primary sources are as follows:

247 Wall Street, Universities Getting the Most Money from the Federal Government: https://247wallst.com/special-report/2017/03/22/universities-getting-the-most-money-from-the-federal-government/2/

Yahoo Finance, Universities Getting the Most Government Money: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/universities-getting-the-most-government-money-185831904.html

The Daily Pennsylvanian, New report shows Ivy League schools get more federal funding than some states: https://www.thedp.com/article/2017/04/ivy-league-tax-report

The Washington Post, These states give more grant aid to college students in need than the feds: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/03/03/some-states-give-more-to-needy-college-students-than-the-feds-most-give-far-less/?utm_term=.c3ca4bab682d

USDA, Most Successful Universities and Colleges Receiving Federal Funds: https://nifa.usda.gov/sites/default/files/resource/Table-1-Most-Successful-Institutions.pdf

USDA, Lowest One-Third of Universities and Colleges Receiving Federal Funds: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/economic-diversity-among-top-ranked-schools

US News, Economic Diversity Among the Top 25:  https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/economic-diversity-among-top-ranked-schools

Time Money, A Growing Number of States are Spending Less on Public College Students. This Chart Shows How Much: http://time.com/money/5219330/state-public-college-funding-cuts-2017/

Our final ranking is ordered based on the following priorities: Amount of money gained from the government (relative to enrollment size),evidence of wise spending of government money, the likelihood of receiving future government money and amount of students receiving government aid.

Our results, from 30 to one, are below:

Rank School Location
1 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
2 University of Washington Bothell, WA
3 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
4 Wesleyan University Middletown, CT
5 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
6 Carleton College Northfield, MN
7 Stanford University Stanford, CA
8 Davidson College Davidson, NC
9 University of California, San Diego La Jolla, CA
10 Princeton University Princeton, NJ

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  1. Johns Hopkins University

    Baltimore, MD

    By comparing the data presented in 247 Wall Street and Yahoo Finance, it can be seen that federal research and design grant money for Johns Hopkins University increased from $1.88 billion in 2011 to $2 billion in 2015. Additionally, among US News's top national universities, Johns Hopkins takes on the 22nd most Pell Grant Recipients. The government funding that goes into Johns Hopkins University is highly unlikely to decrease in the following years because it has  established  an incredibly strong relationship with various federal departments. It currently wins research money from the National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, The Department of Energy, The Department of Defense, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NASA and many more. Its relationships with these departments go back many years. For instance, the National Science Foundation has spent money on Johns Hopkins's Applied Physics Laboratory since 1979. There is some  worry  that the college could be affected by the Trump administration's spending cuts, but it is likely to receive large amounts of funding even if it is slightly reduced. One added measure of security for the college is the knowledge that its state's spending on students is increasing. Time Money notes that from 2016 to 2017, Maryland was the state with the seventh highest increase in spending.

  2. University of Washington

    Bothell, WA

    Yahoo Finance reports that in 2011, University of Washington's academics were worried that government cuts could lead to a research funding shortfall. However, funding data from University of Washington itself has shown that in 2012, its government funding actually increased by over $100 million. While the funding did take a dip in 2013, it has  shown  a consistent level of federal grants and contracts in the years since. However, its other government grants (such as Washington State grants) have increased considerably. In fact, overall funding to the college has climbed from $1.4 billion in 2011 to $1.6 billion in 2017. Washington State, in general, is a good area for college goers, as the state's spending per student is increasing. Time Money reveals that between 2016 to 2017, the state saw the eighth largest increase in spending per student. 247 Wall St names the University of Washington as the college with the second most federal funding in America.

  3. University of Southern California

    Los Angeles, CA

    USC is great at making and saving money. It is free of financial fraud or misconduct allegations and has gained the trust of many government departments. However, the college has not released the exact level of funding that it has received specifically from the government. It does state that in its overall budget that its total contract and grant awards in 2017 were for over $1.5 billion and that it has been increasing every year since 2013. Much of this money must be funded by the government, as the college has formed a very strong relationship with the Department of Health and Human Services. If all this weren't good enough, the University of Southern California also has the third highest amount of Pell Grant  recipients  among US News's top national universities.

  4. Wesleyan University

    Middletown, CT

    For a liberal arts college, Wesleyan University is able to gain significant amounts from the government. What's even better is that this sum is increasing, even with recent resource restrictions. In 2017, the college gained $9.6 million in government and foundation grants. This is an almost million dollar  increase  on the 2016 sum. This stands, in contrast, to the educational spending of its state, Connecticut. Time Money reports that Connecticut saw the largest decrease in student financial support in 2017. In 2010, the college did  sue  its ex-financial advisor for focusing on outside interests, but this issue appears to have had no impact on the college's ability to gain funding.

  5. University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA

    This college has ensured that it has a strong system for continuing to receive government funding, even in times of cuts. The Daily Pennsylvanian states that the University of Pennsylvania, "spends the most on lobbying out of any Ivy League university." Appropriately, 247 Wall St states that the college received the most federal funding of the Ivy League in 2015, at $617.5 million. The college has continued to have strong finances in recent years, although government policy has meant that its  endowment  is now taxed at a higher level. It  continues  to report successful research funding on a regular basis, however. The University of Pennsylvania also receives the joint 11th highest percentage of Pell Grant students of US News's top national universities, at 15%.

  6. Carleton College

    Northfield, MN

    For the last two financial years, Carleton College has managed to  gain  over $4 million in government grants and contracts. This is incredible when its small  enrollment  of just 2,000 students is taken into account. And what's even better is that 2017 had a slight increase in funding over 2016. The 2017 financial report notes that the college gained $4.7 million in overall funding, compared to $4.4 million in 2016. Carleton's lack of financial fraud or other similar funding issues should ensure that this money is consistently granted for many years.

  7. Stanford University

    Stanford, CA

    Federal grants make up a small portion of Stanford University's total funding, but it is still America's fourth highest college recipient of them. 247 Wall St states that in 2015, it received $679.6 million in federal money, but had an endowment of over $22.4 billion. For comparison, in the same year, Johns Hopkins University received $2 billion in federal funding but only had an endowment of $3.4 billion. Despite the college's excessive endowment donation savings, the college is still reliant upon federal funding for its research activities. Federal government funding  makes  up 81% of its total research expenditure. It's unlikely that Stanford's funding will be affected heavily by federal budget cuts. But even if it is, it should be able to reclaim some money from the California state government. California's student spending efforts increased by 2.2.% in 2017. Stanford also has the joint 20th most Pell Grant students of any of US News's top national universities.

  8. Davidson College

    Davidson, NC

    Despite a 0% change in 2017 student spending in the state of North Carolina, Davidson College has no difficulty in accessing government funds. The college's latest financial report reveals that it was able to gain a 24% increase in research funding in 2017 from 2016. In monetary figures, this is $4 million in 2017 compared to $3.3 million in 2016. There is no record of financial misconduct from the college, which is a good indicator that it should be able to at least maintain a strong level of government funding, even with government cutbacks.

  9. University of California, San Diego

    La Jolla, CA

    In 2015, University of California, San Diego received the fifth most money in federal funding of any college, at $643 million, according to 247 Wall Street. However, it is more reliant on this money than the colleges above it in the ranking. This is because it is the only one in the top five where its federal funding was larger than its endowment, which stood at $536.1 million. Luckily, in  subsequent  years, its federal money has continued to increase. 2016's federal government support was $693 million. The college looks set to continue this trend. It has even secured funding for a number of multi-year projects, such as an $8.3 million award over 7 years for malaria research. Politically, the college has not done much to jeopardize its US funding. However, it could indirectly  suffer  slightly from the Chinese government's decision to bar Chinese students from receiving funding to study at the college.

  10. Princeton University

    Princeton, NJ

    Even though Princeton University's home state, New Jersey, experienced a 1% student funding decrease in 2017, according to Time Money, Princeton's funds are secure. The college is completely free of financial fraud or misconduct instances. And it has strong relationships with federal funding sources. Its latest data on government grants and contracts comes from 2016 when it revealed that over  $290 million  of its  $300 million  research budget come from the federal government. But where the college has seen a remarkable  increase  of government money is from Pell Grants. It currently sees 22% of students receive Pell Grants, which is a major increase on the 7.2% it saw in 2008.

By BVS Staff
July 2020

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