Public universities reflect the aspirations a state or society has for its young people and for itself. In this study our interest has been to examine the level of public funding for universities and its relation to quality. In order to do this we collected funding data for a sample American universities. Additionally, we collected data on the production of science by faculty at the institutions in our American sample. The results indicated a strong relation between investment in higher education and quality. We then developed a measure of return on investment in research which combined these measures of funding and research production. We conclude by examining the nature of the relationship between funding and research quality at public universities.