TABLE 2-1 NRSA Stipends

Years

2001

Percent

2002

Percent

2003

Percent

2004

Percent

Predoctorate

$ 16,500

10

$ 18,156

10

$ 19,968

10

$ 20,772

4

Postdoctorate Level 0

$ 28,260

5

$ 31,092

10

$ 34,200

10

$ 35,568

4

Postdoctorate Level 1

$ 29,832

5

$ 32,820

10

$ 36,108

10

$ 37,476

4

Postdoctorate Level 2

$ 35,196

5

$ 38,712

10

$ 40,920

6

$ 41,796

2

Postdoctorate Level 3

$ 36,996

5

$ 40,692

10

$ 42,648

5

$ 43,428

2

Postdoctorate Level 4

$ 38,772

5

$ 42,648

10

$ 44,364

4

$ 45,048

2

Postdoctorate Level 5

$ 40,560

5

$ 44,616

10

$ 46,404

4

$ 46,992

1

Postdoctorate Level 6

$ 42,348

5

$ 46,584

10

$ 48,444

4

$ 48,852

1

Postdoctorate Level 7

$ 44,412

5

$ 48,852

10

$ 50,808

4

$ 51,036

0

Years

2006

Percent

2007

Percent

2008

Percent

2009

Percent

Predoctorate

$ 20,772

0

$ 20,772

0

$ 20,772

0

$ 20,976

1

Postdoctorate Level 0

$ 36,996

4

$ 36,996

0

$ 36,996

0

$ 37,368

1

Postdoctorate Level 1

$ 38,976

4

$ 38,976

0

$ 38,976

0

$ 39,360

1

Postdoctorate Level 2

$ 41,796

0

$ 41,796

0

$ 41,796

0

$ 42,204

1

Postdoctorate Level 3

$ 43,428

0

$ 43,428

0

$ 43,428

0

$ 43,860

1

Postdoctorate Level 4

$ 45,048

0

$ 45,048

0

$ 45,048

0

$ 45,504

1

Postdoctorate Level 5

$ 46,992

0

$ 46,992

0

$ 46,992

0

$ 47,460

1

Postdoctorate Level 6

$ 48,852

0

$ 48,852

0

$ 48,852

0

$ 49,344

1

Postdoctorate Level 7

$ 51,036

0

$ 51,036

0

$ 51,036

0

$ 51,552

1

SOURCE: NIH Stipend Levels, http://grants.nih.gov/nrsa.htm.

peg into a round hole. The simplest solution is to create a square hole, which offers all the advantages of a round one. With increasing awareness of this contradictory issue, many institutions have devised creative solutions aimed at maintaining parity between the two groups of postdoctorates. Thus, although trainee postdoctorates cannot usually be included on employee health coverage, highly competitive insurance can in fact be purchased, usually more cheaply than the employee plan and offering better coverage because the postdoctorates tend to be younger than the general employee population. It is true that postdoctorate trainees cannot get university retirement benefits, but the cash value lost is in fact less than the gain in income from not paying FICA. Not being on the human resources list of employees may cause frustration with issues such as parking and child care. However, payment of a very nominal sum to the trainee as salary solves this problem without jeopardizing his or her status as primarily a stipend-receiving trainee.


Recommendation 2–1: NIH should reinstitute its 2001 commitment to increase stipends at the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels for NRSA trainees. This should be done by budgeting regular, annual increases in postdoctoral stipends until the $45,000 level is reached for first-year appointments, and stipends should increase at the cost of living thereafter. Predoctoral stipends should also be increased at the same proportional rate as postdoctoral stipends and should revert to cost-of-living increases once the comparison postdoctoral level reaches $45,000.


The estimated annual cost when fully implemented would be about $80 million, or 10 percent of the NRSA budget. If phased in over 4 years, the $20 million dollar annual increase would be about 2 percent of the NRSA training budget. This should not be implemented by reducing the number of individuals supported by the NRSA program. The committee notes that the Obama administration has recently proposed a 6 percent increase in stipends for 2011 over the 2010 level. This is a positive step on the way to the recommended stipend levels.

INDIRECT COST RATES

It is debatable whether training grants lead to a superior or better trained individual in the long run. The rather limited amount of data and related evaluations are certainly consistent with this conclusion, although the degree of significance is not high. Of course, institutions tend to put their best students on training grants, and the outcomes likely should be better. However, to a degree this is immaterial. The key role of NRSA training lies in the fact that the applications are scrupulously peer reviewed. This, in turn, drives institutions to review their approaches to graduate education on a regular basis and encourages them to establish best practices that can then be honed through the peer-review system. As a result, in the competition to recruit graduate students, even non-NRSA schools will feel the pressure to create an excellent training environment. In this sense, over the past decade or so the training grants have served as major drivers of innovation in



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