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Federal Investment in Higher Education

Explore the Federal Investment in your Alma Mater

Did you know the federal government invested over $149 billion in colleges and universities in fiscal year 2018?
Those funds made an impact on over 3,000 schools, approximately 15 million undergraduates, and a little over 2.5 million graduate students.


Investment Overview

How much was invested in colleges and universities?

In 2018, higher education institutions received a total of $1.068 trillion in revenue from federal and non-federal funding sources. Investments from the federal government were $149 billion of the total, representing 3.6% of federal spending. This money flowed into colleges and universities through three main vehicles: federal student aid, grants, and contracts. In our analysis we focused on data from nonprofit institutions that offer a program of two years or more.

Student Aid



Student Aid






Student Aid

Federal student aid is financial assistance provided through grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans to students for their educational expenses. This can include costs such as tuition, housing, transportation, books, and supplies. Loans comprise approximately 73% of the total aid to students, making them the largest source of assistance from the federal government. Although student aid includes the $11.6 billion investment made through the G.I. Bill of Rights, it is not included in this analysis because we were not able to make a direct connection between that investment and the benefits given to an institution.


A federal grant is an agreement through which a federal agency provides financial assistance to an individual or organization used for projects and expenses that contribute to public good. For example, in 2018, the Department of Commerce funded the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s (UMBC) research for measuring and improving the robustness of deep learning algorithms.


A federal contract is an agreement in which the federal government purchases a good or service from an organization or individual for government use. For example, in 2018 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration used a federal contract to pay the California Institute of Technology to operate the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This laboratory is a center for robotic exploration of the solar system that carries out essential research and tasks like developing a self-directed spacecraft.


My Alma Mater

Find how much your Alma Mater
received in federal funds.

The federal government may have invested in your college or university, whether it is public, private, four year, or two year. Use the map below to uncover the amount and type of investment for individual schools. Click on a regional cluster to expand the area and see the schools in that area.


  • Click the map to get started
  • The number displayed on each cluster is the number of institutions in that area
  • Click on a regional cluster to expand the area and display details for each school
  • Use the zoom in and zoom out keys to adjust the map view
  • For a specific search, use the search tool to type in the school by name
Refresh Map

Agency Investments

Connect the agency
to the federal investment.

Federal agencies are organizations in the executive branch with specific missions to serve the public, ranging from promoting the progress of science to ensuring national security. Use the chart below to discover the financial breakdown of each agency’s investment, including which colleges and universities get funds, and what investment vehicles they are using. In this visualization we focus on funding through grants and contracts.


In this visualization sub-agencies are represented by colorful circles and grouped together by their agency symbolized by the light gray bubble

  • Hover over the circle cluster or individual circle for the total investment of the agency or sub-agency
  • Click on a circle to view more details for each sub-agency
  • Click anywhere in the gray circle to return to the original view

Investment Categories

How was the money used?

Now that we know how much money was invested in higher education, are you curious to know how the money was used? This visualization allows you to discover the various categories the government uses to classify funding. Note: Product and Service Codes (PSCs) are used to categorize contract purchases of products and services and Federal Assistance Listings are used to categorize grant funding.


  • Select an investment type: contracts, grants, or research grants
  • Hover over each section to determine the category
  • Click on a specific section to display the total awards for that category
  • Click the center section to return to the original display
Program Title
Grant Family
2018 Federal Grants

To return to a higher level click the center node

All of our data was sourced from, check out our methodology section to see how we did it!

Data Sources and Methodologies

1 Financial obligations represent outstanding debt or regular payments to another party. A negative value obligation (de-obligation) results from a transaction that lowers the debt amount. A grant or contract has a negative obligation for a given fiscal year when it spans multiple fiscal years and the sum of the transactions for that particular fiscal year was a net reduction of the original obligation.

2 Due to the way military academies are funded, they have not been included in this analysis.

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