Private investors redirect schools

Daily Editorial Board

The University of Minnesota is turning increasingly to private investors in order to fund its research, the Minnesota Daily reported last week.
According to Dan Gilchrist, a spokesman for the Office of the Vice President for Research, federal funders such as the National Institutes of Health have lost some of their investment power over the past decade. He said that while federal financial support for University research increased by 17.6 percent over that time, overall funding actually decreased by .4 percent. 
As a result, corporations and private investors have become more attractive options to researchers in need of money. Since 2006, research awards from businesses have grown by nearly 25 percent. 
However, reliance on private investors can have serious consequences for academic research. For example, Igor Kolomitsyn, a researcher at the University’s Duluth campus, said the funding arrangements often require him to pitch his research to corporations. 
Professors should not have to rely on contracts with private corporations in order to make a living. The University must take care to balance the school’s financial and intellectual needs if it wants to maintain its reputation as a haven for creativity, exploration and discovery. 
Overreliance on private investors can threaten the spirit of free inquiry and, moreover, increase the corporatization of universities. Some people already argue the current system of higher education treats students as customers rather than learners — it seems doubtful that meaningful education will survive if professors become salespeople rather than teachers.