It's been a banner year for Utah State University, particularly in research funding and other fund-raising, President George Emert said in his state-of-the-university address.

USU research projects topped $100 million for the first time, ranking the university among the top five land-grant institutions for research money. No other university in the country brings in more per faculty member, Emert said recently."That is an astounding number for a small-town, land-grant university in the Intermountain West," he said.

Gift-giving also reached an all-time high, with $30 million in donations and pledges, Emert said. Meanwhile, the university endowment has gone to $48 million from $6 million over the past five years.

"These are important figures for this university for a number of reasons," Emert said. "In the big picture, they mean that we will have more money to spend for university projects and student scholarships."

USU also made big advances on the distance-education front, installing a new digital satellite system that delivers courses to more than 50 far-flung classrooms throughout Utah and boosting enrollment by nearly 9,000 students, he said.

Meanwhile, USU put dozens of independent study courses on the Internet and also began offering a Web-based master's degree in technical writing.

The word on the switch to semesters was: so far, so good.

"There have been some glitches, certainly," Emert said, "but all of our preparations are paying off."

Another milestone came when USU's accreditation was reaffirmed for another 10 years by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Colleges, Emert said.

The evaluation committee called USU "friendly, civil, respectful, caring and humane."