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UROP Feels Financial Pinch

By Ramy Arnaout
Associate News Editor

With most funding requests processed, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program officials are calling this summer the most difficult funding period in the program's 25-year history.

While students' UROP Office funding requests topped $1.3 million, only $400,000 in internal UROP funds were available for distribution this summer, according to a UROP Office statement released last week. The financial strain has resulted in students receiving only a minimal share of their UROP funding from the UROP Office.

Of the 717 proposals reviewed so far, about 90 received no UROP Office funding, the release said, although UROP Administrator Debbie H. Shoap said, "Many who didn't receive direct UROP funds have been funded by supervisors."

By comparison, during the summer of 1993, 1,092 students received $528,000 in UROP Office funding, the statement said.

Office staff expect the funding crisis to carry over into the fall term. "To minimize the number of students turned away from a summer UROP opportunity, the UROP Office has already allocated a significant portion of its fall budget to meet summer demand," the statement said.

$1M aids not UROP funds

The UROP Office funding crisis comes despite Provost Mark S. Wrighton's April allocation of $1 million to help UROP, the statement said. In his original announcement of the allocation, Wrighton directed the funds "to be used to cover the fringe [employee] benefits and indirect [overhead] costs that will be charged to grants, contracts, and fund accounts," but not those costs that will be charged to internal UROP funds.

Since the allocation is directed at only those overhead and employee benefit costs incurred on sponsored research funding - money paid directly by a student's UROP supervisor - and not at benefit costs on internal UROP funding, the UROP Office does not benefit directly from the $1 million, Shoap said. The allocation "will not be used to help offset the additional employee benefit costs charged on [internal] UROP funds," the statement said.

Shoap said there is a general unawareness among students of the exact use to which the $1 million is being put, she said. Many students have been calling the UROP Office to find out why their proposals were not funded despite the apparent availability of $1 million, when in fact the $1 million does not apply to UROP funds, she said.

As of July 1, the added employee benefits costs will make students 8 percent more expensive than in previous years for internal UROP funds, according to a memorandum to Wrighton from the UROP Working Group Wrighton formed to seek answers to the crisis for the fall. This number is down from the previously reported rate of 431/2 percent, largely because of the recent efforts of the working group and Comptroller Phillip J. Keohan. [See related story, page 1.]

According to the memorandum and UROP Director Norma McGavern, overhead costs, which do not apply to UROP Office funds, will combine with employee benefit costs to make students 64.2 times more expensive for sponsored research funds.

"Faculty-funded proposals will continue to be accepted until May 31, and consideration for overhead and employee benefit coverage will be awarded on a rolling basis" until the $1 million allocation has been exhausted, the statement said.

Notes for summer, fall

The UROP Office will accept fall UROP proposals for one week in early September, Shoap said. Funding awards will be announced to students shortly thereafter, over the course of a single week.

For the present, Shoap advises students who are still searching for summer UROPs not to give up hope. She said that so far, several individuals have had to cancel summer UROP plans, presumably leaving prospective mentors with job openings. "The best place to look for cancellations is the UROP office," she said.