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Grad Student Stipends to Increase 3.5 Percent Next Year

By Kelley Rivoire

Graduate student stipends next year will outpace inflation, with base stipends increasing 3.5 percent across the board, in comparison to two percent inflation. The increase will bring science and engineering doctoral students who have passed qualifying exams to a salary of $2121 per month and master’s students to $1939 per month.

Contact teaching assistants, who are students heavily involved in their classes, will earn base stipends of $2174 per month, and teaching assistants, who provide limited support such as grading alone, will earn $1960 per month, according to Dean for Graduate Students Isaac M. Colbert.

Departments can vary the base stipend by plus or minus 10 percent, Colbert said. Setting stipends is a “delicate balance between the real and perceived needs of graduate students,” focused on “trying to make life comfortable” for graduate students without pushing too much cost onto faculty, Colbert said. Base stipend numbers are set by MIT’s Academic Council, a group that includes MIT’s executive officers and academic deans.

Additionally, graduate students with families will see a break in their health insurance, with the family contribution decreasing 16 percent to $2660 per year. The single student health care rate will remain the same at $1440 per year, Colbert said.

Members of the Graduate Student Council urged MIT to reconsider the costs to graduate students with families, leading to the health insurance change this year, Colbert said. “We have more unmet needs on the family side than we do on the individual side,” he said.

Only two years ago, the family contribution was over $4000, Colbert said. This year marks “another small step forward,” he said, as there is a “need to try to help student families bear the cost a little better.”

Andr a E. Schmidt G, co-chair of the GSC’s House and Community Affairs Committee, wrote in an e-mail that this year, the GSC felt that the students with the greatest needs were those with children of spouses who cannot work because of visa regulations.

Last year, the GSC focused on the fact that “Many graduate students with children go into debt thousands of dollars each year to cover their expenses of child care … or just to pay for their cost of living,” Schmidt wrote.

Schmidt wrote that many female graduate students are advised that the best time in an academic career to have children is during their graduate years, so “if one of MIT’s goals is to increase the number of women in academia, then it is one of MIT’s responsibilities to give graduate student mothers the support they need.”

Though MIT has made significant improvements in its resources for students with children, including a need-based child care scholarship and a maternity leave policy, “many parents in need of formal child care end up juggling their children between friends, neighbors, and babysitters because they can’t afford day care,” Schmidt said.