Graduate stipends to increase by 5.5%

Graduate students’ stipends will grow 5.5 percent for the coming year, and students will see several other improvements to financial aid despite University-wide budgetary constraints, Graduate School Dean Jon Butler announced Monday.

The nine-month stipend for humanities and social science students will be $19,000 for the 2006-07 academic year, an increase of $1,000 over the current rate. The University also announced new fellowships yesterday to cover the cost of health insurance for graduate students’ children, and expanded summer fellowships for current students to cover three summers of funding. Graduate students in the physical and biological sciences receive different stipends based on their field of study, but their stipends will grow at a similar rate to those of their peers in the humanities and social sciences, Butler said. In addition, teaching fellowships paid to teaching assistants after their fourth year in graduate school will grow 6 percent next year.

Butler said the Graduate School worked with the Steering Committee of the Graduate Student Assembly — the elected representatives of graduate students — to identify major financial priorities for the coming year. Growing utilities, security and shuttle costs and expected cuts in federal funding were budget constraints this year, as was the University’s projected budget deficit, officials said.

“We had to match [student priorities] to some of the financial realities and exigencies, and I thought in the end we were able to do very close to what was desired,” Butler said. “I’m extremely pleased by the result we were able to achieve.”

Last year, stipends were also increased by $1,000, representing a 6 percent increase during the 2004-05 academic year.

Yale Provost Andrew Hamilton said the GSA’s involvement in the process was integral to the financial aid changes.

“The change in child health coverage grew out of the representations made to us by the GSA, who argued effectively that current rates presented a sizeable burden to graduate student families,” Hamilton said.

Yale President Richard Levin said a major consideration when setting stipend levels for graduate students is keeping the Graduate School competitive with its peer institutions, so administrators take into consideration the financial aid packages at other schools.

The summer fellowships announced yesterday are an extension of a program created last year, which only applied to first-year students. Now all graduate students will be eligible for three years of summer fellowships, instead of the previous two years of coverage.

GSA chair Julia Azari GRD ’08 said additional summer funding is beneficial for both the University and its students, since having extra time for research will allow students to write better dissertations and publish scholarly articles, which will reflect well on Yale.

“I’ve heard only positive things in my department. People are really happy,” Azari said. “It alleviates a lot of anxiety about what people will be doing over the summer.”

Graduate Employees and Students Organization spokesman Evan Cobb GRD ’07 said he was pleased that the University continued its tradition of annual stipend increases, but he is most excited by the improvements to dependent health care. Child care was a central issue for both GESO and the GSA this year, he said, and although he would like to see more child care options available, the additional aid will ease the burden on parents.

“This is something I think everyone in the graduate school felt was a priority, and it’s really good to see that addressed,” Cobb said. “It may actually become possible to have children and not be trading off having kids for the pursuit of an academic career.”

Cobb said that while the financial aid changes this year will address some key concerns GESO members have recently expressed, he thinks the University should change teaching assistants’ payment structures, which currently do not reflect the difference in hours worked between different positions.

Azari said child care is likely to be a top priority for the GSA in the coming year, reflecting constituents’ concerns about the cost and availability of child care. The GSA will also try to reach out to specific groups within the broader graduate school community, she said, from student-parents to international students.

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