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Graduate stipends to increase 2 percent for 2016-17

The minimum stipend rates for graduate teaching and research assistants and fellowship awardees at Cornell will increase by 2 percent for the 2016-17 academic year. The Cornell University Board of Trustees approved the increase at its meeting Jan. 29.

With the increase, minimum stipends for teaching and research assistantships will be $25,152 for a nine-month appointment, averaging no more than 15 hours per week. The fellowship minimum stipend rate will range from $25,152 to $28,998, depending on the discipline.

Approximately 2,700 doctoral students at Cornell receive stipends each semester.

Cornell benchmarks stipends against private and public peer schools, factoring in local cost of living and inflationary trends. Cornell’s current stipend rate is near the median among Ivy League and peer research institutions, and higher than the median at many flagship public universities.

The Graduate School recommends minimum rates to the university budget office and board of trustees, based on input from faculty, students and deans. Graduate fields may increase these rates using grants or other funding sources.

“The Graduate School is committed to attracting and retaining top students and supporting them to achieve their academic aspirations. We know that our top applicants have many schools from which to choose,” said Barbara A. Knuth, senior vice provost and dean of the Graduate School. “When I met with them, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly provided valuable perspectives on challenges that impact student budgets, including child care, affordable housing, summer funding and conference travel. We have responded to many of these concerns and continue to work toward solutions to these challenges.”

In response to concerns about child-care costs, earlier this year Cornell more than doubled the funding for student child care grants from $100,000 to $250,000 and raised the maximum award to $3,800.

To address housing costs and availability, the Graduate School has been working with university leadership to encourage the rapid redevelopment of Maplewood Park Apartments with the needs of graduate students in mind.

While the minimum stipend is established for the nine-month academic year, most doctoral students continue their research over the summer.

In response to decreased federal and state funding, a new program in the Graduate School enables graduate STEM and life sciences fields to convert a portion of their fellowship budget into summer stipends, “as a way to help ensure students don’t have unexpected gaps in their support,” said Jason Kahabka, Graduate School associate dean.

Most doctoral students in the humanities already receive summer fellowship stipends for at least four summers. In the summer of 2015, 96 percent of continuing doctoral students received some level of financial support, with the average stipend being $7,045.

Research degree tuition rates have remained constant for several years as part of Cornell’s effort to contain expenses for students and faculty whose grants fund research assistantships.

Doctoral students typically receive multiyear funding packages – between $48,018 and $60,490 per academic year, depending on field of study – that include full tuition, health insurance coverage and stipend. In 2015, only 6 percent of graduating Cornell doctoral students had incurred debt from U.S. federal loans, Cornell institutional loans and education loans from private lenders, compared with the national average of 60 percent at doctoral research universities.

In addition to available institutional funding, graduate students are encouraged to apply for competitive external awards that can provide full financial support and bolster their resumes. The Graduate School and many graduate fields offer workshops and training on grant writing to help students submit successful applications for National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Fulbright and other prestigious grants. This year, Cornell had a record number of successful NSF Graduate Research Fellowship grant recipients 

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John Carberry