Tablet device with the word "policy" and parts of the definition of the word policy visible on the screen.

Changes announced for policy on tuition waivers for grant-funded research assistants

As of July 1, 2020, Miami University discontinued waiving the full amount of in-state tuition for grant-funded graduate research assistants. Under the new policy, in-state tuition waivers will be scaled to the amount of direct costs in a grant. The additional out-of-state surcharge above in-state tuition will continue to be waived for all grants. Investigators are now required to include a minimum of 4.3% of the direct costs of a project as tuition for each graduate student stipend, unless a funding agency specifically prohibits charging tuition. If you are requesting more than $250,000 per year in direct costs, or there is no limit on the amount that can be requested, full in-state tuition must be included at the current rate of $523 per credit hour. Tuition is not subject to facilities and administration (F&A) charges. The established minimum percentage will be evaluated annually and may change as tuition rates change.

Rationale

As part of a benchmarking exercise during strategic plan formulation, the research office learned that as recently as five years ago, most universities in our research expenditure bracket in Ohio and in the Midwest made it a common practice to waive fully both in-state and out-of-state tuition on grants that included a stipend for a graduate research assistant. Last year, as the research office updated its strategic plan, the same benchmarking exercise demonstrated that nearly every university that had, five years ago, been waiving full tuition was now expecting principal investigators to cover at least a portion of tuition on smaller grants and to cover full in-state tuition on major grants (≥$250,000 per year). This change means that Miami’s practice of waiving full tuition made us an outlier. The new policy aligns our practices to national norms.

As a result of the benchmarking and program review, beginning this past academic semester, Research & Sponsored Programs staff started asking some PIs to include partial tuition on their grants. On June 4, Jim Oris, then-Vice President for Research & Innovation, held an online forum with over 30 attendees to discuss a possible change in policy. Provost Osborne subsequently approved the change to take effect July 1, 2020.

The percentage calculation

Nearly all universities consider an NIH R01 grant the standard for a “major grant” and require grant budgets to cover the full cost of in-state tuition for their graduate research assistants. Typically, an R01 uses a modular budget that allows up to $250,000 in direct costs per year.

Using this same standard – an NIH R01 grant with a modular budget (i.e., $250,000 per year) – full in-state graduate tuition for a single research assistant was calculated as a percentage of the annual direct costs. Assuming full time graduate enrollment of 9 hours during each fall and spring and 3 hours during summer, for a total of 21 credits per calendar year, full in-state graduate tuition for a single research assistant amounts to 4.3% of $250,000. The fairest approach is to apply the 4.3% standard evenly across all grants that include stipends for GAs, as an offset to the cost of tuition. In cases where the 4.3% does not cover full in-state tuition, the remaining in-state tuition will be waived (as will the full out-of-state surcharge).

Examples

NIH grant

Our most common NIH grant is an R15 (AREA) mechanism, which is $300,000 in direct costs over three years, or $100,000 per year. Applying the 4.3% to such a budget will require the proposed budget to include $4,300 per year per GA in tuition, for a total of $12,900. The balance will be covered by a tuition waiver.

An NIH R21 has a direct cost limit of $275,000 over two years. This is typically budgeted as $150,000 in Year 1 and $125,000 in Year 2. Applying the 4.3% minimum tutition requirement, the proposed budget will include $6,450 in tuition for Year 1 ($150,000 x .043) and $5,375 in tuition for Year 2 ($125,000 x .043). The balance will be covered by a tuition waiver.

NSF grant

A typical NSF grant averages $123K in direct costs per year for three years. Applying the 4.3% to a budget of that size will require that $5,289 per year be included for tuition for each GA. The balance will be covered by a tuition waiver.


Image by Nick Youngson for Alpha Stock Images via The Blue Diamond Gallery, used under Creative Commons license.