Graduate students explore expenditure deficit

Faith Riggs

Between balancing teaching, research and classes, things can get stressful.

Sometimes it’s just going through life just hoping your car lasts and your family stays afloat until graduation day.

“You’re just kind of hoping things will work out just long enough until you can get that degree until you get some type of well paying job,” said Mark Rhodes, a geography graduate appointee.

Although some graduate students receive tuition waivers and stipends, other monthly expenditures such as a phone bill, rent and groceries can be difficult to fulfill.

“The median expenditure is about $145 more than the median stipend level,” said Tim Rose, the advocacy chair for the Graduate Student Senate (GSS). “Those numbers have to be made up somewhere else.”

Rose recently conducted a study on the climate of graduate programs in relation to stipends and stress.

“When you look at the middle level for stipend and the middle level for monthly expenditures, we see those numbers don’t equal each other,” Rose said.

The goal of the study is to gather concrete evidence that the GSS can present to colleges and departments in attempts to raise stipend levels.

“You always want to have information before you talk about what’s good and what’s bad. It’s always best,” Rose said.

Rose and the GSS determined the median level of graduate stipend is about $1,300 a year with the median expenditure over $100 above that.

“For the past couple of years we have just been trying to collect as much data as we can,” Rhodes said.”We are getting to the point now that we are going to bring this data to various parties of the university and have the evidence to back up our needs.”

Kyle Reynolds, the director of student services in the Division of Graduate Studies, works directly with students as an advocate.

“We spend a lot of time asking grad students how their experience has been as a student and what obstacles they may be facing, so we really use a lot of that information to help advocate for the students needs,” Reyolds said.  

Unlike undergraduate school funding, the financial aid office does not determine funding of tuition waivers and stipends. Students must find funding through their specific college or program.

“Most of assistantships are posted by academic departments, and some are posted on the career exploration and development’s job site,” Reynolds said.

Funding generally comes in forms of partial tuition funding, full tuition waivers, full tuition waiver with a stipend or a stipend only. Admitted students usually have to search for these opportunities independently.

The Division of Graduate Studies helps to advocate the needs of grad students and acts as a support system through any obstacles students may experience.

“We oversee some policy in relation to graduate assistants and making sure we have language that advocates for graduate students and protecting them,” Reynolds said.

As for now, the GSS is awaiting its final research and hoping it enacts change toward future grad programs.

“It’s just doing what you love to do,” Rhodes said. “It’s stressful and you run through all these barriers. At the end of the day, I’d rather go through these barriers than to spend my life working at a cubicle.”

Faith Riggs is the Women and Gender Issues reporter. Contact her at [email protected].