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Stipend cushions student transition costs

New $1,200 stipend to cover doctoral students’ moving costs, among other expenses

The Graduate School will offer a new $1,200 transitional stipend for incoming doctoral students this fall, said Ethan Bernstein, director of administration and operations at the Graduate School. The stipend aims to help offset moving costs and will cost the Graduate School over $350,000 for around 320 doctoral students, Bernstein added.

Doctoral students typically receive their first monthly stipend payments Sept. 30, said Alastair Tulloch GS, president of the Graduate Student Council. However, many students move to Providence in August, which means they need to bring money for a month of expenses, cutting into their savings, said D’Ondre Swails GS, a member of the Diversity Advisory Board.

“For myself, I started at Brown coming straight out of undergrad, so it wasn’t like I was in a situation where I could have been saving,” Swails said. “I arrived on campus with what I had from working all summer.”

“Graduate students were struggling to survive for the month or month and a half of moving to Providence,” he added.

The Grad School expects the transitional stipend to help with more than just moving costs. “We have also seen an increase … in students coming to see our associate dean of student support for various other hardships,” Bernstein said. Students come to discuss mental health challenges, food insecurity or how to budget properly, he added.

Another problem for students moving to Providence is the housing market, Swails said. “A sizable portion (of the housing market) requires the first month’s rent, last month’s rent and a security deposit that equals one month’s rent, so you’re looking at three month’s worth of rent to move into your apartment and, on top of that, living expenses,” he said.

The GSC welcomes the new transitional stipend and appreciates the University’s responsiveness to its concerns, Tulloch said. “We were pleasantly surprised when the University offered this transitional stipend,” Tulloch added.

Concerns about transitioning to the University were raised during the GSC’s general body meetings last fall, he added. After those meetings, the GSC discussed possible solutions with Provost Richard Locke P’18, President Christina Paxson P’19 and Dean of the Graduate School Andrew Campbell.

In addition to the GSC, other student groups, such as the Samuel M. Nabrit Black Graduate Student Association, have advocated for greater support for students transitioning to campus, Bernstein said.  “(We used) the role of the advisory board to bring attention to the needs of graduate students, especially when we arrive at Brown,” Swails said.

The transitional stipend is part of the ongoing effort by the Grad School to increase financial support for doctoral students, Bernstein said. The base stipend for doctoral students has risen 56 percent overall in the past 13 years, and dental insurance and parental relief have been added in the past few years, according to the Grad School website.

“I suspect we will start to see more and more universities doing this,” Bernstein said.



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