Univ. ups grad student stipend

The standard stipend for graduate students in the humanities and social sciences will increase 5.26 percent to $20,000 in the next academic year, Graduate School Dean Jon Butler announced Tuesday.

The $1,000 increase in the nine-month stipend will be accompanied by a $200 raise in summer support funding and a five percent minimum increase in the wages of all teaching fellows and part-time acting instructors, bringing the maximum wage to more than $9,000 per semester. Stipends for students in the sciences, which are often funded by federal grants and are generally larger than those in the non-sciences, will also grow by about $1,000, Butler said.

Doctoral students are eligible to receive stipends for up to five years of study and research at the University. If positions are available, they may work as teaching fellows or part-time instructors for additional years during which they are registered as students.

Butler said the increase in the financial aid package follows the pattern of growth over the past several years. When determining each year’s stipend in negotiations with the Provost’s Office, Butler said, the Graduate School takes into account numerous factors including the state of the economy, the cost of living in New Haven and, most importantly, the aid offered at Yale’s peer institutions — a factor which he said plays a significant role in attracting top students.

The new stipend places Yale in line with, if not ahead of, the “very best in the country” — including Stanford, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton and New York University — particularly after taking into account cost of living, Butler said.

“We need to maintain our competitive position,” Butler said. “We don’t like to lose students to other institutions because their packages are better, so we try to estimate what other institutions will do. We want our departments to be able to attract the most competitive students.”

Ian Simon GRD ’08, chair of the Graduate Student Assembly, said the organization has been working with the Graduate School’s administration to increase student stipends and teaching fellow salaries since its inception 10 years ago. He said that while students are pleased with the continued increase in the amount, there are still issues the GSA hopes the administration will address in the future, including making students eligible for funding for five summers, rather than three, and raising the teaching fellow rate for doctoral students in their sixth year, when they are no longer receiving the standard stipend.

Butler said Yale’s system is unique in that it provides uniform packages to all accepted students, rather than singling out two or three for additional merit-based awards. Although this costs the Graduate School a handful of students every year, Butler said, awarding a single amount across the humanities and social science departments eliminates tension among students. There is variation in the science students’ stipends because they come from a variety of sources, Butler said.

Anna Gawboy GRD ’10, who is a doctoral candidate in music, said she is very pleased about the increase in stipends for next year and thinks most students will feel the same way. But she said many students still have concerns about the adequacy of summer funding, despite the small increase this year.

“I’ve heard that people have really struggled over the summer because the summer funding is essentially half of what the funding during the year is, which for most people covers their rent and food, but not much else,” Gawboy said. “I know that some people are concerned about the fact that there is only three summers that are covered and for people that are in their dissertation years, an extra year of funding, even at the same level, would be a big help.”

Graduate Employees and Students Organization spokesman Evan Cobb GRD ’07 said that while it is always positive to see an increase in stipends, the University still has a long way to go in providing fair compensation for teaching fellows and in particular for part-time assistant instructors. PTAIs teach or hold discussion sections five times a week, he said, as opposed to teaching fellows, who hold them two or three times a week. But there is just a $100 difference between the highest amount TFs can be paid and the wages of the PTAIs, which Cobb said “does not reflect the reality of the PTAI position.” He said GESO has filed grievances about this disparity over the past decade and will continue to put pressure on the administration about the issue.

But Butler said Yale’s stipend for teaching fellows is “as high as any in the nation” and that the amounts exceed those that most schools offer for independently teaching — rather than assisting — an entire course.

The Graduate School unveiled a new Parental Support and Relief Policy last Friday, which allows doctoral students to take a parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child without losing their stipends.

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