The Chronicle of Higher Educations annual listing of congressional earmarks for higher education was released Monday (Sept. 23), and West VirginiaUniversity was once again near the top of the list �€second only to the University of South Florida.

WVU received some $31.6 million of the $1.8 billion in congressionally approved funds this past fiscal year, according to the survey.

Two other West Virginia schools ranked in the top 50 (Marshall at No. 35 and Wheeling- Jesuit at No. 41), ranking the state seventh overall in higher institutions receiving public funds.

Vice President for Research and Economic Development John Weete noted that public funds are put to good use at WVU for worthwhile and important projects, such as $6.8 million for a new facility for Positron Emission Tomography and $4 million for forensic science research.

“We are, as always, delighted and grateful for this congressional supportmuch of which is due to Senator Robert C. Byrd’s and Congressman Alan Mollohan’s assistance,”Dr. Weete said.”Our congressional delegation has helped initiate enterprising programs, which will benefit our country as a whole.”

President David C. Hardesty Jr. agreed, citing the University’s new forensics identification and biometrics programs, recently featured in both _ USA Weekend_ and Newsweek as two of the hottest and fastest growing professional fields of the future.

Because of this public assistance, WVU has one of the nation’s only comprehensive academic and research programs in the field of forensics. These programs would not exist if it were not for federal funding, Hardesty said.

Weete also pointed out that WVU receives substantial peer-reviewed funds for various research projects in the medical, environmental sciences and other fields.

“Funds we receive through assistance from our delegation are used to initiate important programs and are leveraged for competitive funding to sustain them,”Weete noted.”Evidence for this is that WVU s total research funding has increased 123 percent over the last four years �€to $134 million �€for the highest amount in the history of the University.”

Weete said the $31.6 million from Congress makes up 24 percent of WVU s total sponsored projects and research funds.

Byrd, D-W.Va., expanded on the notion of earmarking funds, noting their relevance to economic development across the state.

“Expanding the opportunities at West Virginia’s many colleges and universities not only helps our state’s young people, but also helps the nation to prepare for the challenges of tomorrow,”Byrd said.”With investments in our schools, new doors are opened to students, better preparing them for their future.

“At the same time, the country benefits,”Byrd added.”The development of cutting-edge energy research, new medical applications and other innovations previously only imagined �€all of these investments and their results will extend far beyond the borders of the MountainState.”