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Funded UROPs Fall Due to Higher Costs

By Fenney Kwan

The number of students with paid Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program projects will be cut in half this year as a result of government regulations that increased the cost of hiring students by more than 60 percent, said Norma G. McGavern, director of UROP.

McGavern estimates that at least 800 people will have paid UROPs this school year, extrapolating from this term's number of paid UROPs. Last year, more than 1,600 people had paid UROPs.

New federal regulations require MIT to charge overhead to UROP salaries, increasing the cost of hiring a UROP by about 60 percent, McGavern said. Because UROPs cost more, many faculty cannot afford to take as many students as they did last year, McGavern said.

The new regulations also require MIT to charge faculty for employee benefits. McGavern originally expected employee benefits to cost an additional 44 percent, but MIT created a special benefits category for students that costs only 6 percent.

Of the paid UROPs for this school year, McGavern hopes that 500 UROPs will be paid by faculty advisers from their grants and 300 from the UROP Office.

Summer funded UROPs to fall

McGavern estimated that the number of UROPs will drop next summer to about 300, from 939 last summer. Last summer's UROPs were funded by the UROP office, faculty research grants, and a windfall of $1 million allocated by Provost Mark S. Wrighton in April 1994.

The special $1 million allocation was crucial in reimbursing faculty members for the employee benefits and overhead costs, McGavern said.

Without this one-time cash infusion, funded UROPs will fall sharply to about 300 next summer, according to McGavern. "There will probably be 90 students working with the UROP Office funding and hopefully, no less than 200 faculty sponsored research" projects, McGavern said.

Complete UROP statistics will be available at the end of the fall term, McGavern added.

Funding a problem for some

"I was wandering around the Laboratory for Computer Science building looking for a UROP. The professors told me that UROPs aren't for pay anymore. The money is not around," said Leaf Jiang '98.

Jiang now has a paid UROP with funding from the UROP Office at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

However, Linda Chien '96 said the new regulations did not really affect her search for a paid UROP. "I'm in a department that doesn't get UROPs often. I was also lucky that I had a professor who really wanted me to work there."

Chien's faculty adviser, Professor of Economics Jonathan Gruber, had called the UROP office to ask if there was enough funding from the UROP Office for Chien and offered to look for funding from his research if there was none, Chien said.

I don't think the overhead costs really affected me," Chien said.