U. of C. announces funding increase, enrollment caps for grad students in humanities, social sciences

The University of Chicago campus from the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel tower, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave. (Photo by Aaron Gettinger)

Staff writer

The University of Chicago will give more funding without a five-year limit for graduate students in the humanities and social sciences starting next fall, though the administration will set a cap on the total number of doctoral students it admits across departments.

The new framework, which will be fully implemented in 2022 and cover all students who matriculated after 2016, will replace the 2007-introduced Graduate Aid Initiative, which in 2018 gave roughly $27,000 in funding for the 9-month academic year for five years.

The new framework replaces that, guaranteeing that doctoral students in the Divinity and SSA schools and the Social Sciences and Humanities divisions will receive at least $31,000 in funding for the duration of their programs, though they will still be required to finish their degrees within 9 or 12 years. All tuition will be covered

Teaching requirements will vary by program; unlike under the GAI, annual funding will be at the guaranteed level and not affected by how much students are teaching.

The move comes in the wake of a report by the Committee on Graduate Education, commissioned in response to the long time it takes for doctoral students to finish their degrees and their rates of attrition. While the committee found that the GAI provided funding, it did not reduce the time needed to finish degrees or attrition rates.

Their report suggested fixing programs’ sizes, which the framework does by setting a maximum number of students enrolled across all doctoral programs. Divisions and schools, not particular departments, will set the cap. The administration conceded that it will enroll fewer doctoral students once the new framework is fully implemented.

While the framework is coming from the central administration, Provost Daniel Diermeier said departments and schools will determine how to implement it within specific programs.

“Much work has gone into developing this framework, and much work remains to be done,” he said in a statement. “We are grateful for the tremendous work by faculty, students, and staff dedicated to improving the support of doctoral education at the University of Chicago and advancing its eminence and distinction.”

The development comes as Graduate Students United (GSU), a union which won a National Labor Relations Board-certified vote but later left the federal process, continues to seek voluntary recognition from the administration. GSU has complained that its members are not sufficiently funded and raised issues regarding health insurance and the student services fee, which remains mandatory under the new framework.

The administration also announced new career support resources and a faculty-student mentoring program alongside the new framework. Expansions in post-graduate teaching fellowships and diversity recruitment investments are also to come across all schools and divisions.

Graduate funding has traditionally been different for students in the hard sciences, given their vastly different funding sources and time necessary to finish programs.

The Division of Biological Sciences provides five years of financial support, including tuition and fees, for graduate students. The stipend this academic year is $32,372 plus health insurance fees. In the Physical Sciences Division, financial aid comes from research, teaching, grants and fellowships, typically lasting until they earn their degrees.