Approved by the: Faculty Senate - May 2, 2013
Administration - no action required*
Board of Regents - no action required

* The administration believes that it is not necessary to take any administrative action in regard to the Senate Research committee statement on University support for Institutional Training Grant Proposals. The University policies already allow for the support of Training Grants and the value of them is highly recognized by the administration as stated in various Senate Committee meetings. The OVPR published F&A rates specifically allow the F&A costs that are for training grants so that is not a restriction. The University budget model allows individual colleges and their faculty to determine what funds should be available to support college activities such as training grants. The University 7-11 tenure statement permits consideration of training grants in tenure decisions and individual departments and colleges specify their own additional tenure considerations in their 7-11 statements. The six specific suggested changes are not necessary because the requested functions are already available. Training grants are already supported by the OVPR and the graduate school but the primary responsibility rests with the disciplines providing the expertise. The Graduate School is already available to help with negotiation and provision of funds. The fellowship office already tracks stipends. F&A rates required in training grants are already acceptable through the office of sponsored projects; no special requests or negotiation is required to send out proposals at these rates. As stated above, the University budget model does not preclude the submission of training grants.

University Support for Institutional Training Grant Proposals

In concert with a renewed focus on assuring the quality of graduate education at the University of Minnesota, the Senate Research Committee has considered a number of issues related to the support of institutional training grants at the University of Minnesota. Training grants, typically awarded for five-year periods, provide graduate students and post-doctoral fellows with stipends and a substantial portion of their tuition expenses plus health insurance and an allotment for research expenses. As distinct from an individual training grant to a single student or fellow, the institution that is awarded an institutional training grant selects the students and fellows who will receive support from the grant.  Most institutional training grants do not provide full Facilities and Administrative (F&A) or Indirect Cost Recovery (ICR) rates and often limit infrastructure support, i.e., FTE for faculty and staff; nevertheless, they are an important factor in the ratings of academic performance and prestige of research universities.

Institutional training grants provide multiple benefits to the University, including: 

--  A commitment of funding from training grants, often for the duration of a student's graduate program, attracts outstanding students and post-doctoral fellows;

--  Top quality students and post-doctoral fellows become engaged in research at the University of Minnesota and are more likely to join the faculty at research-intensive universities and become productive researchers;

-- Grant dollars are given to students that are specifically designated for payment of tuition;

--  Holding a federal institutional training grant draws recognition and gives status to the University, the faculty, their research, and the programs supported by these grants; and

--  The provision of additional research personnel (graduate students and post-doctoral fellows) through training grants, beyond that provided by research grants, increases productivity and makes the University more competitive for continued research grant funding.

A confluence of factors has led to misconceptions related to the value of institutional training grants:

First, for federally-funded training grants from some major sponsors, including NIH, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Health Research and Services Administration (HRSA), the sponsor-authorized Facilities & Administrative rate (F & A) is 8%, as compared to the current negotiated rate of 52% for most federal research grants awarded to the University of Minnesota.  In addition, some federal grants, e.g., NSF-IGERT (National Science Foundation - Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship), exclude costs allocated for student support when calculating the F&A that can be recovered. 

Second, our current University budget model in which expenditures drive the cost pool allocations does not distinguish among expenditures subject to F&A recovery and expenditures for which no F&A recovery can be generated.  The current mechanism for determining a college's share of central administrative expenses does not differentiate between training and research grants, i.e., the differing nature of the money expended on an external award (e.g., FTE for research employees versus stipend/tuition support to graduate students).  Thus, in determining cost pool charges, the University currently includes expenditures made to students, e.g. stipends and tuition, as equivalent to expenditures of salary to personnel employed on a research grant. Thus, with no differentiation on types of expenditures in the cost allocation model, added to the agency-dictated lower F & A rate on institutional training grants, training grants can easily be perceived as not "carrying their weight" in terms of earned F&A recovery relative to allocation of costs to an RRC.

Third, there is an unwillingness in some colleges, to provide match dollars or contributed FTE to faculty who will be teaching, mentoring, and administering an institutional training grant.  Conversely, providing match dollars to a grant can be perceived as adding to a unit's cost by virtue of holding an institutional training grant.

Fourth, promotion-and-tenure criteria may not adequately acknowledge faculty with training grants as compared to traditional research grants.  Faculty may be discouraged from investing in writing training grants while on tenure-track in particular. Rather, they should be valued because they support the educational mission of the University and commitment to preparing scholars. Furthermore, insofar as these training grants do produce publications from research or on related matters of pedagogy, they should be acknowledged in parallel fashion to research grants. 

However, due to one or more of these factors, faculty have indicated that some units discourage the submission of institutional training grants, limit the frequency or number of training grants that a faculty member may hold, do not provide matching funds or contributed time, or are unwilling to sign off on training grant submissions. Increasingly, even though a grant mechanism may not require matching dollars as an indication of university support, the proposal may be disadvantaged without such support (except in the instances where match dollars are not allowed).

As a demonstration of the University's support for institutional training grants and acknowledgment of their role in assuring the quality of graduate education and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, the Senate Research Committee has identified the following changes that would make the University more supportive and encouraging of training grants:

1) Clear designation of a unit within central administration that is responsible for advocating for the acquisition and support of training grants; 

2) Leadership from the Graduate School to the principal investigators/program directors of training grant proposal for negotiating matching funds from the applicable units (college-level and central administration), if allowed by the grant mechanism;

3) Increased resources in the Graduate School for matching dollars for all types of institutional training grants, if allowed by the grant mechanism.

4) An annual calculation of the total amount of support given to graduate students that includes all stipend and tuition dollars garnered through institutional training grants; 

5) A statement included in current applicable University policy indicating that a lower F&A rate is not grounds for denying approval for a training grant proposal.

6)  Investigate a modification of the cost pool structure that differentiates between research and training grant expenditures in determining the central administration "tax" rate at the unit level.  In effect, we recommend using the Modified Total Direct Costs (total direct costs minus equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, student tuition remission, rental costs of off-site facilities, scholarships and fellowships, and the portion of each subgrant and subcontract in excess of $25,000) be used for determining a unit's cost pool allocation.

Return to Senate Resolutions Page