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NDSU ranked sixth for federal higher ed earmarks, UND eighth

North Dakota State University is ranked sixth with $28.2 million in earmarks, according to a report posted on the Web site for the The Chronicle for Higher Education, which covers college and university news for faculty members and administrators.

North Dakota State University is ranked sixth with $28.2 million in earmarks, according to a report posted on the Web site for the The Chronicle for Higher Education, which covers college and university news for faculty members and administrators.

UND ranks eighth in the nation in higher education federal earmarks with $24.5 million for fiscal year 2008, according to a new analysis by the Chronicle.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is responsible for helping funnel $74 million into higher education projects in North Dakota in fiscal year 2008, the fourth-highest total of any member of Congress, The Chronicle reported.

The publication also found that Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., helped earmark $41.8 million in higher education funding in North Dakota in fiscal year 2008, the most of any representative in the 435-member House of Representatives.

Earmarks are appropriations made by lawmakers outside of a competitive award process, and typically for projects in their home states.

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Some have objected to the use of earmarks, sometimes called "pork barrel projects," because, critics charge, they lack review of project merits by knowledgeable scientists.

"The number of institutions receiving earmarks has shot up despite growing worries that the noncompetitive grants undermine the American scientific enterprise, and in spite of promises by some lawmakers to cut back," The Chronicle article stated.

Dorgan: 'I'm proud'

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Pomeroy, Dorgan and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., helped secure all 14 of UND's earmarks this fiscal year.

Dorgan defended his use of earmarks Monday after taking part in a news conference at UND to announce Laserlith Corporation will begin testing and manufacturing tiny switches for electronically steered antennas in unmanned aircraft systems at UND's Research Enterprise and Commercialization Park. Dorgan secured a $2.4 million earmark from U.S. Department of Defense spending for the project.

"I'm proud of being able to invest in the future of our universities," said Dorgan, a UND graduate. "This will bring new jobs to the area."

The Chronicle's analysis shows that at least $2.25 billion in earmarks are part of the 2008 federal fiscal budget, representing more than 2,300 projects to 920 institutions. The spending is a slight increase since 2003, but well above the $528 million spent in fiscal year 1998, and a 25 percent rise in the number of universities and colleges, according to The Chronicle.

Michael S. Lubell, director of public affairs at the American Physical Society, told The Chronicle that the earmark numbers and names show "a system that's out of control."

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But Dorgan said Congress should have some say in how higher education funding is dispersed and said earmarks are needed because competitions for federal funding typically awards most funding to larger states such as California, Texas, New York and Massachusetts, while almost entirely ignoring other deserving areas such as North Dakota.

Dorgan added that Congress has cut earmark spending in half, made earmark projects more transparent and punished those who benefit financially from earmarks. A new federal law requires Congress to identify the sponsor of each earmark.

The Chronicle notes that Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, have supported a one-year moratorium, even "though they both handed out generous earmarks to colleges last year." Sen. John McCain, the expected Republican nominee, has proposed abolishing earmarks.

"But members of both parties in Congress are likely to maintain their support for earmarks," The Chronicle reported.

Reach Schuster by phone at (701) 780-1107 or by e-mail at rschuster@gfherald.com .

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