Rice University settled a claim with the United States Justice Department—paying $3.75million to resolve allegations that it misused National Science Foundation grant funds to pay graduate students to teach rather than perform research.
This settlement resolved an investigation based on a 2016 inquiring into whether the Houston, Texas-based university defrauded the agency, which provides about 25% of the funding for all federally-supported college and university research.
What were the Allegation?
At any given time, Rice (and most universities) have active science foundation grants specified for research “under uniform administrative rules” reported Ryan K. Patrick, U.S. Attorney for the District Court for the Southern District of Texas as reported in the Houston Chronicle.
These rules specify that the university can only charge expenses to awards if they were incurred for research purposes, were beneficial to the award, were vital for the operation of the awardee, and were in accordance with the agency’s term and conditions.
The government alleged that from November 2006 to September 2018, “Rice knowingly engaged in a patter and practice of improperly charging graduate students’ stipends, tuition, remission, and related facilities and administrative charges to NSF awards.”
The university issued a statement to the Houston Chronicle from Doug Miller, a university spokesman, saying “The university does not admit any liability or violation of law.” He continued, “However, the university has agreed to pay a settlement in order to avoid the delay, uncertainty, inconvenience, and expense of protracted litigation with the federal government.”
About the National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is an independent agency of the United States government that supports fundamental research and education in all non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its counterpart is the National Institutes of Health.