- Funding a single grad student can easily cost between 75K-80K per year (incl. 50%+ overhead charged by the university, tuition, stipend, etc.)
- An NSF CAREER grant for 5 years at 500K "funds a SINGLE grad student per year, plus $20-25K left over for (1) conference travel, (2) misc (including student laptop, etc.), and (3) 1-1.5 month of PI salary."
Not that academia is the only system that seems highly inefficient, but still...
Source: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=508 (check the comments for details)