What brings in high dollar research grants from the federal government, corporations, endowments, and foundations, are having medical schools and engineering schools. The humanities, teacher education, social services programs, and most of the other liberal arts programs draw so much less, comparatively. In some states, for example, the medical schools have basically independent governance from the larger flagship university, and organizational criteria matters in reporting certain figures.
Most definitely. Back in the day, it was agriculture, math, and the sciences, and now it's medical schools and bio-engineering.
But in the case of the AAU, it's extremely subjective and fickle. Taken from AAU's very own site
Membership in AAU is by invitation and is based on the high quality of programs of academic research and scholarship and undergraduate, graduate, and professional education in a number of fields, as well as general recognition that a university is outstanding by reason of the excellence of its research and education programs. Information about AAU membership is available here.
No metrics, just hyperbole. Ever since the group saw UNL and Syracuse out of its ranks, a lot of attention has been given about just how arbitrary the AAU distinction is. When it comes to research monies, you'll see a school like Princeton, and small ones like Rice and Brandeis, well below non-members, like UAB, LSU, and the freshly ousted UNL and SU. UNL even pointed this out, among many things, to which the official response from the group dismissed without fielding. Not that things in UNL are rolling along just fine...word has it the place was a trainwreck when it came to things like faculty recruitment, compensation, and other competitive measures. Even if UNL was able to absorb the medical facility (which runs under a separate chancellor), who knows if the AAU would have kept them.
Med schools are where it's at, and Rutgers just got theirs in the recent RU/Rowan/UMNJ merger. Did it help RU out? Maybe. I think, for the Big Ten, the action items directed to Rutgers from the conference concentrated on athletic operating budgets and facility upgrades.
To some extent, this is why I think UConn and UMass are in a foot race. UMass has had its sights on the Big Ten-like operating model since the 90's, pegging itself to PSU, Rutgers, and Maryland. UConn might only now be doing so. But, UConn's in the better place, academically and athletically. I see both as the only remaining and credible "eastern" candidates for full Big Ten membership, with very minute chances at that.