The latest

In May, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it would begin capping reimbursements paid to universities through its National Research Service Awards program, starting this academic year. The 32-year-old program supports more than 15,000 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the health sciences each year, including at least 800 in psychology.

Under the new guidelines, the program will reimburse universities for 60 percent of a graduate student's tuition and fees, up to $16,000. It will also cover 60 percent of costs for postdoctoral researchers, up to $4,500. In the past, the program paid 100 percent of any tuition and fees up to $3,000, and then 60 percent of tuition and fees above that, with no caps.

The caps are necessary because tuition costs have risen faster than the program's budget, according to Norka Ruiz Bravo, PhD, deputy director for external research at NIH.

"If we hadn't done this, we would have had to cut the number of slots," Ruiz Bravo says. "If you have a budget that's a certain amount and costs are escalating, then something has to give."

NIH plans to roll out the new program in a two-year pilot study and will collect data about its effect on universities and students, says Ruiz Bravo. "We're going to be looking at whether institutions are going to choose to support fewer trainees or put more dollars into tuition," she says. The agency plans to review the data and decide on a final new policy by July 2010.

-L. Winerman

For more information about the National Research Service Awards program, visit