Grad students appeal for Advanced Residency aid

At a forum meant to facilitate discussion over their options for financial, many graduate students simply aired their grievances over the policy in place – Advanced Residency tuition – where graduate students in or above their fifth years of study must pay $800 per quarter.

By Hannah Fine

Graduate students asked administrators to abolish Advanced Residency (AR) tuition Tuesday evening, pushing aside other scheduled agenda items.

The forum, in the Social Sciences building, was intended to review tuition and job opportunities for the first four years of graduate studies, but the attendees were most concerned about the AR tuition doctoral students above their fourth year must pay to continue their education.

The fee is almost $800 a quarter, a hefty increase for students who, until their fifth year, are paid to attend and teach at the University.

“[At the] last meeting, the preferred option was to abolish AR. There is no doubt we heard that loud and clear,” said Deputy Provost for Graduate Education Cathy Cohen, who presided over the meeting.

Nonetheless, Cohen called for a discussion of other issues. “We want to hear about the other recommendations of the report.” The report was released by the Provost’s Committee on Advanced Residence and Time to Degree in May.

The committee’s report included recommendations that AR tuition be adjusted but not eliminated, but the meeting was intended to discuss other critiques, including spreading teaching opportunities and aid out more evenly among students.

Many of the students were insistent on discussing the problems AR represents for graduate students, even after the meeting was scheduled to end.

One audience member representing the Graduate Student Union (GSU) said the University should divert funds from other projects to better fund graduate students. “The only solution is for the school to take money from redoing the GSB or a new medical building, to giving the money to its neediest group,” he said. Another GSU member added, “They repaved the road three times in my seven years here.”

The graduate students gathered for the forum were mainly from the Humanities and Social Sciences division, and the Divinity School. The students in the Physical and Biological Science Division receive grants that pay their AR.

Cohen empathized with the graduate students, and said the University lags behind its peers in graduate support.

“In certain departments, we have time to [finish] degrees that are longer than our peers,” Cohen said. “We want to figure out how to improve our system so grad students can get the best education possible. No other peer has students in AR collecting tuition as long as we do.” The University pays some graduate students past their sixth or seventh year, sometimes into their 10th or 12th years.

Under the Graduate Student Initiative, a program started in 2007 for incoming students, graduate students receive almost $20,000 in funding and health care for five years.

“I feel like people should be able to finish in five years or take out loans in their sixth year,” Cohen said.

However, some GAI students complained about how difficult it is to live off of that stipend, even though most AR students live off of thousands less.

“$19,500 is not enough. I’m pregnant and going to have a kid someday,” one AR student said. “That puts you in a different situation.”

There is currently no system through which graduate students can take leaves of absence without paying tuition to the school. Students researching off-campus are also subject to AR tuition, but use less of the University’s resources.

Though fewer graduate students were accepted last year in an attempt to find funding for current students, Cohen conceded that administrators “haven’t quite figured out how to support students who are already here.”