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Increase to the Base Stipend Rate

Modified: May 27, 2015

Dear Members of the Graduate Community at Northwestern University,

I am extremely pleased to announce that, effective September 1, 2015, the annual base stipend rate for PhD and MFA students in The Graduate School (TGS) will increase to $29,000 per year. I hope you will greet this news with the same enthusiasm that we have in TGS.

Graduate education is an integral part of Northwestern’s mission as both a research university and an intellectual community. The welfare of our students is a priority for TGS and for members of the graduate faculty, and we are proud that our collective advocacy on behalf of the graduate population has resulted in more support for our graduate students and ultimately for faculty research.  Northwestern has been a leader in supporting graduate students, and more recently postdocs, and we are delighted that this new investment will aid us tremendously in maintaining our place among our very competitive group of institutional peers.

This stipend increase comes in response to feedback over the last several years from graduate students and faculty, who have been quite consistent in identifying the need for significant additional support for graduate education. We are confident that a higher base stipend will enhance our students’ quality of life, allowing them to focus on their growth as teachers, scholars, and thought leaders by lessening some financial concerns, which can be especially prevalent due to the high cost of living in Evanston and Chicago.  Many TGS students, for example, live in Rogers Park where rents have increased nearly 50% throughout the last two years. The deductible on student insurance rose this past year. And the student activity fee in fall 2013 was raised from $78/quarter to $110/quarter, to name only a few other factors.
Institutionally, since graduate students are critical to recruiting and retaining a distinguished faculty, this increase in the base stipend rate will make us even more successful in recruiting our top applicants to train with our excellent faculty.  As the University looks toward making even more big bets in research, support of graduate students and the ability to recruit the best students will only become more critical to meet our future ambitions. 

Increasing the base stipend to $29,000 will not only help to further TGS’s diversity and inclusion goals, but the higher stipend rate will also level the local playing field between schools, academic disciplines, and departments for current students. Here at Northwestern, we have invested much in assembling a preeminent faculty and building excellent graduate programs, which have placed us among a very elite set of research universities.  This is a fact, of which, we should be justifiably proud.  Across PhD programs, Northwestern routinely competes with Penn, Duke, Chicago, Cornell, Columbia, Yale, and Stanford.  Our data have also shown that Northwestern is typically more successful in recruiting students in the Life Sciences and Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering—programs that have access to resources to “top-up” the base stipend to better compete with peers.  Indeed, in some of these programs, the amount of support students receive might already be close to or even exceed the base stipend rate.  And in those cases, we will be working with those programs to insure that some of the budget-relieving resources provided by the larger university share of the stipend be returned to students in the form of increased program level support for student recruitment, student research support, and student conference travel support.
While there are, of course, many factors that influence a student’s decision about where to pursue her doctoral studies, we know that stipend rates are an important decision factor. So with this increase to the base stipend rate, we predict that our winning percentages in our peer group will further increase over the coming years—especially in the arts and humanities and social and behavioral sciences.  All of this is to say that we recognize that graduate education, for a major research university such as ours, takes place in a marketplace that is dynamic, and we also understand there will continue to be changes.  So we will continue not only to work locally with our programs and partners to maintain our competitiveness among our institutional peers, but also to continue to be thoroughly engaged in the evolving national conversations around graduate education in our peer group so that we remain well-positioned to be nimble such that we maintain our distinction and excellence for the future.

As the date of the stipend increase gets closer, TGS will be working with partner schools, our academic programs, and graduate program staff to prepare for the myriad details involved in this transition.

We are truly pleased to have this opportunity to invest in our graduate students as they prepare to become the next generation of scholars and thought leaders, and we will continue—along with your support and counsel—to advocate on behalf of the Northwestern graduate community.

Dwight A. McBride, PhD
Dean of The Graduate School & Associate Provost for Graduate Education

From the Dean