The US Colleges That Are The Best At Getting Government Funding And Are Secure For The Future

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The US Colleges That Are The Best At Getting Government Funding And Are Secure For The Future

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:

Yahoo Finance, Universities Getting the Most Government Money:

The Daily Pennsylvanian, New report shows Ivy League schools get more federal funding than some states:

The Washington Post, These states give more grant aid to college students in need than the feds:

USDA, Most Successful Universities and Colleges Receiving Federal Funds:

USDA, Lowest One-Third of Universities and Colleges Receiving Federal Funds:

US News, Economic Diversity Among the Top 25:

Time Money, A Growing Number of States are Spending Less on Public College Students. This Chart Shows How Much:

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.

  11. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

    Ann Arbor, MI

    University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is reliant on federal funding. 247 Wall St states that in 2015, the college had the third highest amount of federal money awarded of any college in America, at $756 million. However, worries that this money could be in jeopardy have been alleviated recently. While Michigan State only saw a 0.3% increase in state student funding in 2017, according to Time Money, the state legislature recently approved a $320.8 million increase for University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Even if the federal funding is removed, this state funding should be able to pick up the shortfall. However, there are undoubtedly areas for the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor to work on. For instance, its number of Pell Grant recipient students is low.

  12. Georgia Institute of Technology

    Atlanta, GA

    Thanks to a close relationship with the Department of Defense, Georgia Institute of Technology's future government funding prospects are incredibly strong. In the 2019 budget, the Department of Defense is projected to be given a 13% increase. 247 Wall St reports that in 2015, the college was able to gain $562.6 million in federal funding. To date, the college has had one incident of fraud conducted by three former Georgia Tech employees. The college also had to deal with criticism with the amount of government money it spent on recreational activities. These revelations alone are unlikely to affect the college's relationship with the government, however.

  13. University of Notre Dame

    Notre Dame, IN

    This college is managing to defy both national and state government's funding trends. While Indiana's college student funding decreased by 1% in 2017, and the federal government is cutting back on its departmental spending, Notre Dame continues to gain record-breaking levels of money. In 2017, it managed to gain approximately $79 million in research funding from the government. It is also free of instances of funding fraud or misconduct. Lastly, it shares the 25th place for most Pell Grant students of any of US News's top national universities.

  14. Wellesley College

    Wellesley, MA

    2016 saw a significant increase in Wellesley College's government grant awards. Its funding almost doubled from $3.9 million to $6 million. While this figure then decreased to $4.5 million in 2017, the overall trend for the college's funding over the last decade is for increasing sums. It also sees the joint fifth highest number of Pell Grant recipient students among US News's top liberal arts colleges. Lastly, the college has no history of funding misconduct or fraud, meaning that its overall funding amounts should continue to increase.

  15. Amherst College

    Amherst, MA

    If this article were a simple measure of schools that get the most government funding, then Amherst College wouldn't appear. Its latest annual report reveals that it received only $1.5 million in government funding in 2016. But as Amherst is a small liberal arts college, that money is impressive. This is even truer when compared to its government funding for previous years. In 2015, its funding was $1 million. And in 2014, it had an even smaller government funding amount of $773,000. These strong yearly increases combined with the fact that Amherst College is completely free of financial misconduct to mean that it should continue to increase funding amounts in future years. If this weren't impressive enough, it also has the second most students receiving Pell Grants among US News's top liberal arts colleges.

  16. University of Minnesota

    Crookston, MN

    This college saw a significant increase in federal funding from 2015 to 2016. 247 Wall St reports that in 2015, it managed to gain $505.3 million. But in 2016, this sum increased to $788 million. However, many are worried that the college could lose funding. Matters have been made worse by the 2017 revelation that a University of Minnesota professor had been charged for fraud (although this did not involve college money). So far, the college has been able to continue with its strong record of college funding and recently gained $42 million for biomedical research.

  17. Swarthmore College

    Swarthmore, PA

    This small liberal arts college has maintained consistent government funding in the face of federal cuts. The college's 2017 to 2018 budget reveals that it received $2.1 million in government grants. This is a slight decrease from the $2.3 million it was awarded in 2017. But on the whole, this college's future funding prospects look strong. Its home state of Pennsylvania increased student funding support by 3% in 2017, according to Time Money. Additionally, it has no fraud or misconduct history. Lastly, it gets the ninth most Pell Grant recipient students among US News's top liberal arts colleges.

  18. Pennsylvania State University

    Hershey, PA

    This is one of several colleges in America that have decided to secure more funding at the state level, due to the threat of federal cuts. The college's funding from the state of Pennsylvania will be $327.4 million for 2018 to 2019. 247 Wall St notes that Pennsylvania State University managed to gain $599.8 million in federal funding in 2015, the 8th most of any college in America. To date, there has been one instance of grant fraud in PSU's history. This appears to have been the actions of a single professor and has not affected the college significantly in the years since its occurrence.

  19. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Cambridge, MA

    Apart from one funding incident with an individual professor in 2005, MIT has a clean record for fraud and misconduct. Even that one incident saw the college's management dismiss the professor promptly, ensuring that their overall financial reputation remains strong. 247 Wall St reports that in 2015, the college's total federal funds were $491.4 million. Since the Trump Administration came to power, MIT has been forming strategies to ensure that its funding continues. Luckily, the Department of Defense, the college's key source of support, has increased its budget. Additionally, MIT's Vice President for Research, Maria Zuber, has extensive experience with the scientific advisory world of Washington DC, giving the college an edge. MIT's 2018 Report of the Treasurer indicates that the college is succeeding in maintaining its government funding.

  20. Vanderbilt University

    Nashville, TN

    There is good news for the direction of government funding at Vanderbilt University. The college's latest financial report shows that government sponsorship money increased from $148 million in 2016 to $155 million in 2017. The college also ranks in US News's list of the top 25 colleges where students receive the most Pell Grants. Tennessee, Vanderbilt University's state, was also the state with the joint 10th highest increase in student funding in 2017, according to Time Money. The two financial issues that have affected the college to date are unlikely to change its federal or state funding levels. One is a lawsuit about mismanaged retirement money, and the other is about one of its hospitals violating Medicare billing regulations.

  21. Haverford College

    Haverford, PA

    Haverford College received only a small increase in government grants in 2017 compared to 2016. However, an increase is still impressive considering the shrinking opportunities available. In 2016, its total funding from the government in grants and contracts amounted to $1.26 million. In 2017, this increased to $1.31 million. This is a promising indicator of consistency, along with its growing state student support in Pennsylvania. Additionally, it receives the joint 10th largest percentage of Pell Grant students of US News's top liberal arts colleges.

  22. Grinnell College

    Grinnell, IA

    Despite being in Iowa, a state that cut 3% of its spending on students in 2017 according to Time Money, Grinnell College is getting more and more government funding. In the financial year of 2015 to 2016, its total government grants and contracts amounted to just above $800,000. But in the financial year of 2016 to 2017, these grants and contracts had increased to $1.1 million. While that's a comparatively small amount, the college does benefit from being scandal-free in its use of government funding. That means that the dollar amount is likely to increase, even if state and government funding is tightening overall. Additionally, Grinnell College is taking on the joint fifth most Pell Grant students among US News's top liberal arts colleges.

  23. Columbia University

    New York, NY

    Despite being a very urban, New York City-based college, Columbia University has still made USDA's list of top federal fund receiving colleges. It also ranks at seventh on 247 Wall St's most government funds received list, gaining $599.9 million in 2015. If that weren't enough, then it also gains the joint fifth most Pell Grant money from US News's top American national universities, at 17%. As for the college's state support, New York saw the 13th largest increase among US states in spending per student in 2017. One thing that does detract from Columbia University is that it has previous instances and current accusations of fraud. However, the college continues to gain funding on a regular basis despite this.

  24. University of Pittsburgh

    Pittsburgh, PA

    For 2019, University of Pittsburgh has confirmed a 3% increase in support from the state of Pennsylvania. This will definitely help mitigate the potential effects of federal grant reductions. In 2015, the college was able to gain $580 million in federal funds, the 10th highest sum of any educational institution in America, according to 247 Wall St. To date, the college has had to overcome one government funding fraud case, which was for $2 million. However, this incident does not appear to have derailed the college's ability to gain grant funding. For instance, in August and September 2018, the college secured grants of $3.8 million and $3 million, which both came from government sources.

  25. Claremont Mckenna College

    Claremont, CA

    Though its government funding is tiny compared to some colleges on this list, the money goes a long way. This is because the enrollment at Claremont Mckenna College is only 1,300 students approximately. And financial reports going back to 2007 show that it consistently manages to gain around $1 million in federal funding per year. Its most recent report states that in 2017, it managed to gain $1.2 million. This data and the fact that the college has no financial scandals indicate that the college will be able to maintain its funding for many years.

  26. University of Wisconsin, Madison

    Madison, WI

    University of Wisconsin, Madison is in a fortunate position, funding-wise. Yahoo Finance states that the majority of the college's government funding comes from The Department of Health and Human Services. This is one of the few departments that is seeing an increase in the government's 2019 budget, with an 11% overall increase. And while the University of Wisconsin, Madison's government funding has fluctuated somewhat, with $594 million in 2011 but $551.4 million in 2015, it is on an overall upward trend. In fact, the latest budget for the college reveals that its federal funding is currently $890 million. To date, the college has had one incident of funding misconduct from a single professor, dating to 2010, which may explain the dip in government funding between 2011 to 2015. But such an incident has not occurred since.

  27. Rice University

    Houston, TX

    Rice University is aiming to make a swift improvement of its federal funding efforts. In 2018, it outlined a plan to increase its research funding in all areas after the Trump Administration's tax laws impacted its finances. This is an ambitious aim, but if it works, it will build upon the college's current success. Rice University's latest financial statement reveals that in 2017, it received a total of $102 million from the government, which was an increase on 2016's $97 million. While that may be a lower sum than many of the other national universities on this list, it is promising to see an increase. This is especially true, as in 2017 the college had to deal with its only funding misconduct issue. However, this was the result of a single professor's actions, who has since left the institution.

  28. Duke University

    Durham, NC

    Like several other colleges on this list, Duke benefits from getting the majority of its federal funding from government departments with growing budgets. This should safeguard its finances for years to come. This is fortunate, as Time Money notes that the college's home state, North Carolina, has not increased its student funding in the last year (although it has not decreased either). Yahoo Finance states that the college's federal funding in 2011 was $585 million. By 2017, its annual federal funding had increased to $596 million. US News reveals that it takes on the 19th most Pell Grant students of what the source considers to be its top national universities. However, the college ranks lower on our list due to several instances of funding misconduct leading the National Institutes of Health to impose stricter application requirements on the college.

  29. Dartmouth College

    Hanover, NH

    While Dartmouth's funding experienced a 6% decrease in the fiscal year of 2017, it's likely to gain large amounts of funding in the long term. Last year, it still managed to gain over $200 million in government money. This is good for the college when you consider that its state, New Hampshire, saw one of the biggest reductions in America in the amount of funding that it gives to students in 2017, according to Time Money. However, Dartmouth can rely on future federal funding, due to the college's lack of fraud or misconduct. Additionally, its report on federal funding reveals that it currently gains funding from a wide range of government departments, which should allow it to successfully adapt to government budget changes.

  30. Yale University

    New Haven, CT

    A decade ago, Yale University had to deal with one incident of government funding misconduct. Since then, the college has been able to rebuild its reputation with the United States government. In fact, 247 Wall St notes that it was awarded the 20th most federal funds of any college, at $480 million, in 2015. Since this time, Yale hasn't released any further information upon the total extent of its government funding. On a local level, it is not in a great position, as Time Money reports that its state, Connecticut, saw the largest decrease in America in spending on students in 2017. But there are many indications that Yale still has the favor of many federal government entities. For example, the National Institute of Health and the US Food and Drug Administration recently renewed a $20 million grant for tobacco research. It also has a strong number of Pell Grant students, according to US News.

By BVS Staff
July 2020

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