US: Academic 'pork barrel' tops $2 billion

The continuing debate over whether to end the practice of congressional earmarking is anything but academic for higher education. Colleges, universities and other academic organisations received just shy of US$2 billion in grants directed to them by individual members of congress in the 2010 fiscal year, an Inside Higher Ed analysis shows, writes Doug Lederman.

A review of appropriations bills, congressionally mandated disclosure forms and lawmakers' news releases revealed grants to 875 institutions totalling $1,982,532,150. That is roughly one-eighth of the overall amount of $16.5 billion earmarked by congress in 2010, according to an estimate by Citizens Against Government Waste.

Earmarks are commonly derided as 'pork barrel spending' because they are seen as attempts by legislators to keep their constituents happy (and voting for them). Many earmarks support important and valuable projects, but they are criticised because they bypass the peer review process designed to distribute federal funds to the most worthy priorities.
Full report on the Inside Higher Ed site