Graduate aid increase to support research ambitions

The University aims to set aside between $4 and $8 million to attract more graduate and Ph.D. students over the next decade, playing catch-up recruiting students who can boost research output.

Forrest Maltzman, senior vice provost for academic affairs and planning, said more graduate students would mean more published work and grant dollars, strengthening the programs.

“This is all about creating a research university,” Maltzman said. “We’re competing with some really good institutions for graduate students, and we’re seeing sometimes us losing the best graduate students, because other institutions are offering them aid and we are not.”

Engineering, education and arts and sciences could all see stronger aid packages, but administrators have not yet picked specific programs.

GW had not been aggressive in adding graduate aid packages until recently, Maltzman said, because “we didn’t think our programs were strong enough to be recruiting nationwide.”

Provost Steven Lerman said boosting fund would help GW in a competitive market in which “the best students want to go to the best universities.”

“We fell behind somewhat in being as competitive in some fields as we need to be,” Lerman said.

For example, GW graduate students in physics teaching assistantships were paid $15,600 last year, when adjusted for cost of living. Some of the schools GW considers its competitors – like Duke, Emory, Vanderbilt and Southern Methodist universities – paid their physics teaching assistants at least $5,000 more using the same measure.

When Lerman came to GW, he raised the standard package for Ph.D. students, which includes full salary and full tuition, from $18,000 to $20,000 – the first increase after years of stagnation that had set GW back, Maltzman said.

Graduate student aid varies across colleges and fields: Biology research assistants earned $28,000 a year at University of California, San Diego, while economics teaching assistants at New York University earned $22,000 a year.

Administrators have not decided how to divvy up money among the different types of graduate aid: stipend funds, fellowships and teaching assistantships, and post-doctoral student fees. The aid was a component of the University’s strategic plan draft, which was released earlier this month.

The increased aid will be paid for mostly through money saved by the Innovation Task Force, a cost-cutting group created by University President Steven Knapp in 2010.

The financial aid pool for graduate students also increased by $8.6 million this spring, after the Board of Trustees approved tuition hikes up to 8 percent in some schools.

The University also agreed to add $12 million annually to graduate student aid and Ph.D scholarships in 2002 as part of that year’s decade-long strategic plan, which the anthropology department said helped it push past competing programs nationwide.

Bernard Wood, director of the anthropology department’s graduate programs, said the department has recruited stronger students who produce double the number of peer review publications than programs it competes against, like those at Harvard, Arizona State and Stony Brook universities.

“If the University wants to be a place where knowledge is generated – not just a place where knowledge is passed on, you need everyone’s help in that,” he added.

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