For the sake of Indiana’s economy, please slow down on SB202

What happens to the Indiana economy if Senate Bill 202 (SB202) passes in its current form?

Last year, Indiana University received $772 million in new grants and contracts. Purdue University received $613 million. That money comes predominantly from outside Indiana, contributing significantly to Indiana’s economy. The US Bureau of Economic Analysis’s Regional Impact Multipliers System (RIMS II) is widely used to estimate the impact of investments in a state on that state’s economy. The RIMSII data for Indiana suggest that grants and contracts to IU and Purdue add over $2 billion in direct and indirect value to Indiana’s economy annually (assuming 20% of funding is subcontracted out of state; exact figures on this are not publicly available). This amount of funding supports an estimated 14,000 full-time jobs annually.

Most tenured faculty could make more money outside of academia. World-class experts are attracted to academia to make a difference: to spend a career pursuing research, scholarship, creative activities, and teaching. They receive the assurance of such a career once they have proved their merit through the tenure process. That is the deal in almost all other states. It has been the deal in Indiana in the past, but SB202 would end that here. Faculty of all political perspectives have objected. For example, Purdue University’s Faculty Senate voted 81–5 to oppose SB202. If SB202 is enacted into law, Indiana’s very best faculty members will leave to go to other states.

Losing our best faculty will have many negative economic impacts. Our universities will become less competitive for grants and contracts. Vacated faculty positions can be filled with other PhD holders—but these replacements will be much less qualified than current faculty. For most grant proposals, an important evaluation criterion is a faculty member’s ability to complete the work. SB202 calls that into question, further damaging the competitiveness of Indiana faculty. If SB202 passes as currently written, much less grant and contract money will come into the state of Indiana.

If grant and contract income to IU and Purdue drop to 25% of current levels, the Indiana economy will lose $1.5 billion in total economic activity. More than 10,000 jobs will disappear, following grant money to other states. Competition for grant funding is already intense. The percentage of proposals submitted to granting agencies that are rejected can be as high as 95% to 98% of those submitted. A reduction of grant and contract funding to 25% of current levels seems plausible.

Indiana would suffer other economic impacts as well. If the best faculty members flee, Indiana’s public universities will have lower rankings and may lose accreditation in some specialties, meaning fewer out-of-state students. Losing the higher tuition these students pay (which also subsidizes tuition for Hoosier students) would mean further financial losses for Indiana.

If SB202 is enacted as currently written, pharmaceutical, defense, and high-tech firms in Indiana will lose the existing pipeline of excellent students from our state’s leading universities. Native Hoosiers will miss out on the great opportunity for high-quality jobs available through this pipeline. Indiana will no longer keep the many bright young people who come here to get a university degree and stay here to work in Indiana’s leading tech firms. Pharmaceutical companies will also have far fewer opportunities for local research collaborations that accelerate the development of new, needed, and sometimes lifesaving medical treatments for Hoosiers, their pets, and their agricultural animals.  

Representative Deery cited survey data showing a sharp decrease in confidence in higher education among Republicans as a key reason for authoring SB202. This decrease in confidence should be a grave concern for all. But neither the speed pursued by the right nor the dramatics of the left will provide a good long-term solution. Indiana’s public universities exist because of laws enacted by past elected leaders. Current elected leaders must pursue a future in which every Hoosier child grows up knowing that Indiana’s higher educational system has a place for them where they will be welcomed. Hoosiers also deserve to continue to be able to study at some of the best universities in the world, right here in Indiana.

The current situation took years to create. It will take years to correct. SB202 in its current form will hurt all Hoosiers. Indiana legislators and Governor Holcomb: please, for the sake of all Hoosiers, slow down; don’t try to solve one problem in a rush and create new, potentially worse problems in the process.

Dr. Craig A. Stewart is a PhD biologist and an adopted Hoosier of more than four decades’ standing. He recently retired from a career in advanced research computing and has extensive experience in grant-funded research and analysis of the economic value of scientific research.

The US Bureau of Economic Analysis RIMSII data used in calculations cited above are available online (RIMS II Higher Ed Summary Table – and RIMS II Technical Services Summary Table – An image of the spreadsheet showing calculations of economic impact of Purdue University and Indiana University grants and contracts is online at The spreadsheet itself may be downloaded from . Stewart’s cv showing more than 80 peer reviewed technical and scientific publications overall and more than 10 publications regarding economic evaluation of investment in science (highlighted in yellow) along with information on his involvement in more than 1/3 of a Billion dollars of contract and grant awards is at: