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The University Resources Committee has recommended increasing graduate student stipends — a change spurred in part by Brown's need to be more competitive in attracting graduate students, said Professor of Physics Chung-I Tan, chair of the Faculty Executive Committee.

The recommendation suggested a $500 increase, which, if approved by the Corporation when it convenes later this month, would be "the first increase in the stipend for doctoral students since the 2007-08 academic year," Dean of the Graduate School Sheila Bonde wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

Brown currently offers an academic year stipend of $19,000 for doctoral students, according to Bonde. Brown offers a stipend "lower than the peer institutions" it competes with, Tan said.

"The recommended increase, based on the cost of living in Providence, will allow the Graduate School to remain competitive with peer institutions in attracting and matriculating top-notch students," Bonde wrote. "We list the stipend amount in the offer letters for doctoral programs."

"Graduate student stipends are one of the factors that are compared when people are ranking and comparing graduate schools," Stephen Wicken GS wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. "An extra few hundred dollars per student might just make the difference in taking Brown up a position or attracting an extra talented student or two."

There is a lot of "competitive pressure," said Peter Weber, professor of chemistry and the department's chair. The goal is to "attract who we want to attract," he added.

But competition with other institutions is not the only driving force behind the stipend increase.

"Enhancing the Graduate School is an integral part to enhancing Brown," Tan said.

Furthermore, making Brown more attractive to graduate students helps to "strengthen its standing as a research institution," said Jadrian Miles '08 GS, a doctoral candidate in computer science.

Graduate students are "an important part of Brown's intellectual community, contributing to the research of our faculty, advancing knowledge through their own scholarship, and developing their teaching skills," Bonde wrote.

This change comes as a pleasant surprise to graduate students, Miles said. "Graduate students get overlooked in a lot of plans on the University level," he said.

The increase shows that the University is "taking graduate students seriously even in the current budgetary situation," he said.

"It's important that the University is signaling support for the Graduate School even in tough economic times," Bethany Ehlmann '08 GS, a doctoral candidate in geological sciences, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

The stipends themselves vary from department to department, Tan said, though Weber said there is a "University rate set by the Dean of the Graduate School."

But the disparity between departments is noticeable.

"As a graduate student in the math department, I would welcome any increase in the grad student stipend, though I don't see it as strictly necessary," Diana Davis GS wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. "My stipend is already quite sufficient for my living expenses, and I am able to save money each month."

But not all graduate students rely on University stipends — in fact, the majority are "not supported by the University," Weber said. Many are supported by faculty members' grants, he said, and if the University's stipends for graduate students are higher, the amount of funding students receive through professors' grants likely will have to adjust accordingly.

But the effect on faculty is not only financial, because giving more attractive stipends and having a greater number of qualified graduate students "puts less pressure on faculty for research assistantships," Miles said.

It also provides more teaching assistants for undergraduates, Miles said, which helps both students and faculty.

Graduate students are stretched very thin, Wicken wrote. "The happier, better paid and less stressed the graduate students are, the better the teaching undergraduates receive."

Grad students have to focus on their own classes, research and writing, Wicken wrote. "If they have to do extra jobs to top up their grad school stipends, it's going to be their TAing commitments that receive less attention."

"Most graduate students are severely strapped for cash," Wicken wrote, "and many of them have families to feed."

Overall, any more money in your pocket is nice to have, Miles said.
It is good to "see progress happening," Miles said, "and I hope that it will continue down the line."


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