Graduate students stipends were the topic of both discussion and protest at Monday’s meeting of the University at Buffalo Council.
As the meeting came to a close, an audience full of graduate students began chanting and holding up signs saying, “UB works because we do.”
“This issue is that the stipends are not paying enough for students to pay rent, to pay groceries, to pay child support and such. The issue is raising it to the cost of living in Buffalo, which is ever-increasing,” student representative to the council Mike Brown said.
Craig Abbey, director of the school’s Office of Institutional Analysis, presented a comparison of UB’s graduate stipends with other schools in the Association of American Universities.
“Our average is $18,006. The AAU average is $18,004. The median is a little bit less than that - $17,649. So we’re really right in the middle. The range of stipends at these public institutions for which we have data is 15 and a half to 20 and a half thousand dollars per year,” Abbey said.
The minimum amount a student can be paid by stipend is $9,959 per year. That number does not take into account expenses and fees students pay, like those for health care.
Overall, UB invested $23.5 million in stipends in 2017-2018. Abbey says stipend funds are negotiated by the governor's office of employee relations, not by UB.
But within each of the university’s academic disciplines, the amount a graduate student is paid varies, based on funds separate from what the state provides, and specific to the department.
“While PhD education is important, we must balance many competing priorities with the increasingly limited funds available to us. Faculty and deans are empowered to manage their graduate programs and recruitment packages and balance support for their many priorities,” Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Charles Zukoski explained.
Among the considerations for a stipend amount is how competitive a department aims to be, in comparison to those in other schools across the country.
No public comment period was scheduled as part of Monday’s meeting. Brown requested a public comment period be held separate from the council’s official sessions. Council members said they would entertain the idea.