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FAQ about the Base Stipend Rate Increase

Modified: June 1, 2015

Why is the base stipend rate increasing?
Graduate education is an integral component of Northwestern’s research mission, and graduate students are critically important members of our community who greatly contribute to our research and academic environment. They support the research of faculty, innovate at the frontiers of new knowledge production, teach and mentor undergraduate students, and collaborate with postdoctoral fellows, staff, administrators, and community members.

Earlier this year, The Graduate School (TGS) presented a compelling proposal to University leadership to increase the base stipend rate. University leadership responded by not only approving the proposal, but urging the University community to implement the stipend increase immediately. The University will provide $6.25 million in financial resources to increase the base stipend rate for PhD and MFA students from $22,992 to $29,004 beginning September 1, 2015. 

As Northwestern continues to advance its research agenda, higher stipends will allow our doctoral programs to not only attract the very best students from diverse backgrounds to train with our distinguished faculty, but will also alleviate some of the financial stresses that can be associated with doctoral education.

Frequently Asked Questions for Students 

If I am a current or incoming student, do I need to do anything on my end in order to receive the stipend increase?

No. If your current stipend rate is below $29,004 annually, your rate will automatically increase to the new base rate beginning September 1, 2015. You do not need to fill out any forms or take action of any kind in order to receive the new stipend rate.

If I am a MS or MA student, does this affect me?

No, the base stipend rate increase affects only terminal degree programs, both PhD and MFA students, currently receiving stipends.

Will the University Fellowship (UF) and Graduate Assistantship (GA) rates be the same or different?

The base University Fellowship rate for 2015-16 is $2,417 per month ($29,004 annually). The base Graduate Assistant rate for 2015-16 is $2,491 per month ($29,892 annually). The rates are different due to service and tax implications. If you are currently being paid through Northwestern, you may view your pay rate through FASIS Self-Service

I have decided to defer my admission for one year.  What will be my stipend rate then?

The stipend rate is set annually and therefore will be at the new base rate for 2016-17. The rate for 2016-17 will be at least equal to the new rate of $2,417 per month.

I’m an incoming student and my original stipend was set below the new base rate, how will I know my new rate?

The base University Fellowship rate for 2015-16 is $2,417 per month ($29,004 annually). The base Graduate Assistant rate for 2015-16 is $2,491 per month ($29,892 annually). The rates are different due to service and tax implications. Please contact your academic program to learn which rate applies to you for 2015-16.

I am planning to begin my enrollment this summer, am I eligible for the new stipend rate then?

No. Students are not eligible to receive the new base rate until September 1, 2015. The first pay date for September is September 30, 2015. 

If I submitted an I-20 with the original stipend amount, do I need to re-submit it now?

No. 

If I already receive a stipend greater than $29,004 will my stipend be decreased to the new stipend level?

No. If your stipend rate is already above the base rate, you will continue at your current rate.

I am not receiving funding in 2015-2016, will this increase be applied retroactively?

No. The stipend rate increase is effective September 1, 2015.  The first pay date for September is September 30, 2015.

Will this increase affect my taxes?

The rules regarding taxation are not changing. You may refer to IRS Publication 970 – Benefits for Higher Education for information on taxability.  Information on taxes can also be found here.

If I am eligible for the $500 per month external funding supplement due to receipt of external funding, will this funding continue?

Yes.  TGS’s External Award Policy has not changed.

If I am currently teaching outside of TGS in a non-TGS partner school such as the School of Professional Studies, will the stipend rate increase affect me?

No. The base stipend increase only applies to students receiving funding from TGS partner schools.

Frequently Asked Questions for Faculty

Is the minimum stipend rate for Research Assistant Scholarship (RAS) eligibility going to remain at the GA rate? 

Yes, the minimum stipend rate for RAS eligibility is $2,491 per month.  

The Graduate Assistant (GA) stipend rate exceeds the National Institutes of Health cap. How should this be processed?

The Principal Investigator (PI) should pay the maximum stipend amount allowed from the sponsored chart string.  The difference should be paid from a non-sponsored chart string.  For 2015-16, only $28,764 may be charged to a sponsored NIH chart string.  This does not apply to other federal agencies.

I have already budgeted a lower stipend rate for graduate students in my sponsored project. What do I do?

You may be able to re-budget resources within your project.  For assistance with the re-budgeting process, please contact your research administrator.  If you have larger questions or concerns regarding the overall impact of this change, you should contact your school’s Dean’s Office. 

I am submitting a new research or sponsored funds proposal. What stipend rate should I use?

Use the GA rate, or $2,491/month. 

Will this increase be applied to new and continuing students?

Any funded PhD or MFA student whose stipend is currently below $29,004 will be increased to the new rate. Incoming students who received a funding package of less than $29,004 will be paid the new rate, effective September 1, 2015.

How will students be notified?

Students will receive messages from President Schapiro, Provost Linzer, and Dean McBride. The Graduate School expects each program’s Director of Graduate Study to notify both current and incoming students following these messages. TGS will provide a template and directions for this communication, which will include more details about the stipend increase. 

Will I receive any financial savings due to this increase?

If you were providing a stipend supplement to University Fellows or Graduate Assistants, you (or your department) will realize some financial relief.  The Graduate School’s expectation is that you use these funds to provide additional research and educational resources, such as recruiting support, research accounts, and conference travel grants, to your graduate students. 

If my students are eligible for the $500 per month external funding supplement due to receipt of external funding, will this funding continue?

Yes.  TGS’s External Award Policy has not changed. 

Will TGS continue to provide a stipend supplement to students whose external awards are below the new base stipend rate?

Yes. TGS’s External Award Policy has not changed. TGS will continue to provide a stipend supplement if external awards do not meet the new base rate.  

Will the endowment income be increased to accommodate the stipend increase?

Unfortunately, no.  The income for the endowments is calculated on an annual formula based on criteria set by the University and approved by the Board of Trustees.  You will need to determine whether the endowment chart string will have sufficient income (possibly with carry forward) to support students at the new stipend level.  At this time, TGS is asking programs to work with their school's Dean's Office to assess the impacts of the change to the stipend rate and determine if any flexibility exists to re-budget resources within your program. Should there not be flexibility to re-budget, TGS will work with the program, your school, and Central Administration to find a solution.

Frequently Asked Questions for Staff

 

Will the University Fellowship (UF) and Graduate Assistantship (GA) rates be the same or different?

The base University Fellowship rate for 2015-16 is $2,417 per month ($29,004 annually). The base Graduate Assistant rate for 2015-16 is $2,491 per month ($29,892 annually).  The rates are different due to service and tax implications.  Students may view their pay rate through FASIS Self-Service if they have questions about their current pay rate.

I have already entered stipend funding for 2015-16.  Do I need to adjust the funding now?

Yes, funding will need to be adjusted to the new stipend rates. TGS staff will contact programs in July to provide the deadline for entering stipend funding for 2015-16. If you need assistance in completing these entries or have questions regarding the process or deadline, please contact tgs-fa@northwestern.edu.

Will TGS provide confirmation of student’s new stipend rates?

Yes. TGS is currently updating this information. TGS staff will provide programs with a listing of students, current stipend rates, and new stipend rates over the next few months. 

Will I be provided with updated tip sheets?

Yes, TGS staff is updating the tip sheets with the new stipend rates. These updated tip sheets will be distributed to academic programs in the coming weeks. 

Will the endowment income be increased to accommodate the stipend increase?

Unfortunately, no.  The income for the endowments is calculated on an annual formula based on criteria set by the University and approved by the Board of Trustees.  You will need to determine whether the endowment chart string will have sufficient income (possibly with carry forward) to support students at the new stipend level.  At this time, TGS is asking programs to work with their school's Dean's Office to assess the impacts of the change to the stipend rate and determine if any flexibility exists to re-budget resources within your program. Should there not be flexibility to re-budget, TGS will work with the program, your school, and Central Administration to find a solution.

Stipend