Research grant policy changes postponed

For now, professors don’t have to factor in tuition costs of graduate students and assistants in research grant funding.

As a part of an August change to the research grant process, the university stopped waiving graduate students’ and assistants’ tuition. This change would have forced faculty with research grants to pay for their assistants’ tuition with grant money, which would cut into the research budget.

Provost John Nicklow said at an October Faculty Senate meeting, the policy has been put on hold by Chancellor Rita Cheng until it can be resolved.

The Chancellor said the decision to make the policy change this summer was presented to her by the Graduate Council.

“What we’re concerned about is with the cost in state appropriations of the grant budget, we didn’t want graduate students not being funded, and so we’re asking the professors to fund the graduate students on their grants … so that our graduate students are supported,” she said.

Cheng said the issue is that a majority of graduate students come from out-of-state and would have to pay additional costs if their tuition is waived, as the policy previously covered. She said she had asked the faculty to only take in-state graduate students for research.

John Koropchak, vice chancellor for research and graduate dean, said the Graduate Council conducted a study last year and concluded that universities who are considered peer institutions of SIU pay for graduate students’ and assistants’ tuition with research grant funding. He said the study found this to be a resource stream SIU was not taking advantage of.

Mandi Warner, a graduate student in plant and soil and agriculture from Walterboro, S.C., handles fungus and other materials Monday in the Agriculture Building. Warner said she spends most of her time in the lab conducting research and subcultures on different fungi from her computer. Some of the university’s colleges have been experiencing grant cuts for the graduate students in their departments. “I … have not seen much of a change in the lack of grants for the graduate students in my department yet,” she said. “I have heard about other departments, but not mine that I am aware of.” Alexa Rogals | Daily Egyptian

Koropchak said the study prompted Nicklow to create a task force to recommend how to implement this into SIU’s grant policy. He said the Graduate Council is continuing to work on ways to implement it.

He said the policy change should not have any effect on how many research grants the university will receive.

While the policy has been placed on hold, the Graduate Council will not look at the policy again until the administration makes a decision on whether to implement it, said Manoj Mohanty, a professor in mining and mineral resources engineering and member of the Graduate Council.

“The Chancellor has withdrawn the policy of asking faculty researchers to charge tuition dollars to their research grants that she wanted to initiate starting this fall,” Mohanty said. “She has set up a committee to reconsider it and hopefully start a new policy starting spring 2013.”

The grant change has been a discussion topic at recent Faculty Senate meetings.

“That is something that is being revisited currently, so we don’t know the final form it is going to take,” said Meera Komarraju, an associate professor of psychology and Faculty Senate president.

Komarraju said the Senate discussed the issue in great length and decided to revisit the topic in another meeting. She said the issue is not scheduled for the next meeting because it is the last one of the semester, but it could come up again at the start of the spring semester.

James MacLean, an assistant professor of physiology, said at the September meeting a major downside to the policy was that instructors received less money to fund their own research.

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