External research grants contribute $28M to PSU faculty and staff salaries
Author: John Kirkland, PSU Media and Public Relations
Posted: April 29, 2019

Nearly 47 percent of the $60.3 million that Portland State University researchers brought in from external research grants over the last fiscal year have gone to pay for faculty and staff salaries and  benefits.

“That $28.31 million used for salaries and benefits represents a huge savings for the university,” said Mark McLellan, PSU’s vice president of research and graduate studies. “If we didn’t do all this research, somebody would have to cover that figure,”

Having another revenue source for salaries is significant because of decreased funding from the state,  which has created a budget shortall at PSU. As a result, the university will be forced to raise tuition and make budget cuts, or do both, depending on the state’s final budget for higher education.

School of Social Work professor Beth Green, director of Early Childhood and Family Support Research, has brought in more than 30 research and evaluation grants and contracts totaling more than $10.2 million since 2010. The funds support a team of 12 interdisciplinary researchers and range from small contracts with local nonprofits to large state and federally funded studies.

“My position is entirely grant funded -- I get no salary support from PSU. So that tells you something about the effect of research grants on my career,” she said.

In addition to providing $28.31 million for faculty pay and benefits, the grants paid for $2.5 million in graduate assistantships and $1.4 million in student wages. The combined total is more than half of all grant monies coming to the university. The rest of it goes to travel, supplies, equipment, administration and other expense.

“External funding has made a big difference in attracting and retaining graduate students,” said CUPA professor Jennifer Dill, who has brought in nearly $4 million in grants for her own research and $30 million in federal funding as director of the Transportation Research & Education Center since 2002

Dill said research funding  gives students some experience working on an externally-funded projects, so it will help them in their careers as professors or researchers.  

McLellan said the $60.3 million in sponsored research is typical of the last few fiscal years at PSU, but that the figure could rise in the future with the hiring of new top-level faculty and by assisting current faculty in getting more grants – something his office is already doing.

“All faculty struggle to make a strong case for the value of their work. We focus intensively on teaching them to write to the grant review process,” he said.


Sponsored Project Personnel Expenditures, FY 2018

Personnel Category

Faculty and Staff Salaries                          $28,300,854

Graduate Assistantships                              2,542,179

Student Wages                                            1,427,059

Total                                                      $32,270,093


Amount paid to faculty and staff salaries, wages and fringe benefits, by university division

School of Social Work                                                      $9,231,570

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences                                      6,770,314

College of Education                                                          3,286,181

Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer Science          2,377,625

University-wide centers                                                     2,300,110

College of Urban and Public Affairs                                    1,899,250

Other Units                                                                        1,585,519

School of Business                                                                365,217

School of Public Health                                                         332,190

College of the Arts                                                                109,434

Honors College                                                                       43,445

Total                                                                            $ 28,300,854

Photo above: A student at work in a PSU engineering lab. Grants over the last fiscal year paid for $2.5 million in graduate assistantships and $1.4 million in student wages. Photo by NashCo Photography.