Graduate stipends will be increasing by 4.75 percent for the 2012-2013 school year. The recommended yearly stipend for research assistants will be $30,888 at the doctoral level, and $28,236 at the Master’s level. Graduate teaching assistants will receive $31,644.
The Graduate Student Council (GSC) prepares a cost-of-living survey every four years, in collaboration with the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE). A survey about cost-of-living expenses was sent out to graduate students in November 2011 with a 53 percent response rate. The GSC’s Housing and Community Affairs (HCA) Cost of Living subcommittee then compared the results with inflation statistics to forecast necessary stipends for graduate students.
“Our goal is for stipend increases to match inflation, so that purchasing power stays constant,” said Brian Spatocco G, President-Elect of the GSC and co-chair of the HCA Cost of Living team. Spatocco also noted that the amount of work done to achieve this was “equivalent to an entire Master’s thesis.”
The results of the survey showed that the “buckets,” or areas of expenditure, with the biggest cost of living increases were transportation (8.98 percent), utilities (7.5 percent), and off-campus rent (7.5 percent). On-campus housing rates increased 3.5 percent this year. Rent inflation was high this year due to low vacancy rates in Cambridge, which Spatocco noted were “lower than in Manhattan.”
“Low supply leads to high demand,” said Spatocco, “and high rates are likely to continue.”
Consumer price index (CPI) inflation numbers from the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics were used to examine inflation for the buckets. To analyze rent inflation, however, Spatocco said that the Cost of Living team did not use the CPI data, but performed its own analysis instead.
“Housing in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville is expensive and subject to high inflation,” Spatocco said. “We concluded that annual CPI data would not work for rent. Instead, we did an in-depth rent analysis, which was worth it because two-thirds of grad students live off campus.”
Spatocco noted that rent accounts for about 50 percent of grad student expenses. Rent analysis was done using “hyperlocal data” aggregated by the off-campus housing office at MIT. For cross-checking, these numbers were compared to figures from both the City of Cambridge and online data from consulting firms.
Other students on the Cost of Living subcommittee were Randi Cabezas G, Javier Sanchez G, Ellan Spero G, and co-chair Maokai Lin G.
After analyzing the data, the Cost of Living team made recommendations that were presented to MIT’s Academic Council, which consists of all the Deans from the Institute’s schools, as well as the senior leadership of the university.
In addition to significant collaboration from Dean for Graduate Education Christine Ortiz, Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo and Peter Cummings from the Division of Student Life, the project also listed Jagruti Patel, Greg Harris, John Daries, and Lydia Snover from Institution Research as having made significant contributions. The changes to the stipend were announced April 6, 2012 by Ortiz and Claude Canizares, Vice President for Research and Associate Provost.