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Affected by the pandemic Ph.D. students face funding for the cliff

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 Affected by the pandemic Ph.D.  students face funding for the cliff

Rutgers University tells graduate students whose studies have been postponed due to COVID-19 that there is no more money to expand their funding packages.

Using federal emergency funds, the university offered one round of funding extensions one year earlier during the pandemic to students who had already earned a Ph.D. candidacy. But since the pandemic did not end a year later, some who received this extension required extra time to complete their dissertation, due to factors beyond their control, such as closed archives and restrictions on international travel.

Other students who were on a funding shortfall were not eligible for this only previous extension opportunity or were unaware of it, which means they essentially have to complete their degree on schedule as if a pandemic had never happened.

As a result, some students in their final year of funding are now considering leaving their programs without a degree at all. It’s instead of re-enrolling in the fall to face tuition bills and student fees that they can’t pay: not only will the assistantship scholarship, about $ 30,000, end, but their tuition will be dismissed. Adding to this sense of insecurity, Rutgers is turning postgraduate health insurance over when their funding runs out – in many cases next month.

According to the American Association of Teachers of Rutgers University and the American Federation of Teachers, 150 to 200 students were affected.

“Research is cumulative – you need time to build on it, so if you’ve supported or stopped for a while, it’s harder to do,” said Ajua Kouadio, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate of educational policy whose archival research in New York and Boston were suspended for about a year until vaccines became widely available.Despite this gap, Quadio was notified by email in late January that her initial five-year funding package would end without an extension in June.

Quadio said she had never been told about the possibility of expanding funding, and that if Rutgers had told her earlier that he had no plans to help her graduate, she would have applied for external funding. But by the beginning of 2022, according to her, many deadlines for grants have passed.

The university said in a statement that this is an “extremely complex and important issue that Rutgers administrators take very seriously. During the pandemic, some federal resources received by the university were transferred to graduate students who were unable to advance due to the impact of the pandemic. The University has launched a doctoral support program and agreed with AAUP-AFT to increase funding for this program to eligible [graduate assistants]. More than $ 15 million of these funds have been provided to graduate students in the form of direct aids or assistants. ”

“Unfortunately,” Rutgers said, “federal funds are no longer available to provide additional support after July 1. Chancellors and deans of Rutgers are aware of the challenges, and we encourage graduate students with ongoing concerns to contact their graduate students to discuss how we can help ensure they can complete their dissertations and secure their degrees. The University has fulfilled its obligations under the agreement concluded with AAUP-AFT regarding this program. “

Quadio said her program was able to offer only one emergency scholarship for next year, meaning that students who are in dire need of funding will fight for it.

“We thought,‘ We’re not going to do that, ’” Quadio said. “We all know each other very well. And here are a lot of different things – there is an international student, so it can affect her visa. We have children who have children with disabilities or chronic diseases – we do not want to fight with each other. “

She added: “It’s like The Hunger Games. We do not want to fight with each other for this single resource. We really want everyone to have access to what they need. ”

At the moment, Quadio is not enrolled for the fall.

I’m looking for a solution

Justin Winton, PhD The PhD in School of Management and Labor Relations faces the same dilemma: he must somehow find a way to pay out of pocket tuition, student fees, health insurance and real living expenses next year, working full-time . finish the dissertation.

Vintan, who was not eligible for the first round of funding because he had not yet received a Ph.D. candidate, said he needed another year of funding to make it work.

“I’m doing research on public education and health, and for a year and a half or more I couldn’t access the data to finish my dissertation. And that’s obvious because hospitals and schools weren’t really interested in talking to me – that’s fair. They have their problems, ”he said.

Meanwhile, Vinton taught and did other work at the university, he continued, “but when the time came for us to perhaps expand funding because the pandemic affected our actual dissertation research, we didn’t get that much respect. So that’s what we are fighting now, obviously. “

The graduate students spoke to Rutgers ’board of trustees about their problems last month and met with administrators after planning to enter the central administration building. But while students continue to argue that decisions at the departmental level are lacking, Rutgers has not offered a centralized response.

In response to the union’s letter-writing campaign, Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway wrote: “We take the needs of all graduate students seriously and hear your concerns. We continue to work with our chancellors and deans of graduate students, who coordinate with their deans, departments and alumni directors to review and discuss student needs on an individual basis. The centralized coordination of student funding that was proposed recently was based on the government funding you referred to, which will not continue after June 30, 2022. It is impossible to achieve in the midst of a pandemic. ”

Rebecca Givan, an associate professor of labor research and labor relations at Rutgers and union president, said: “It’s really sad to see the distance between the administration’s rhetoric and the reality of the lack of support for graduate students in dire need.”

Offering each student affected by another year as an assistant professor, “would mean everything – it would allow them to get a degree, and in some cases stay in the country and finish the programs in which they have invested so much. And in the scheme of the university budget and other expenses that he chooses, it is a rather modest investment in support of the university’s mission. “

Before the pandemic, in all academia, about 50 percent were PhDs. students have not completed a degree – statistics that many critics say poorly reflect graduate programs and the academy itself.

Daniel Cook, an outstanding professor of children’s research, said: “There are compelling arguments here for some homogeneous help, because it’s in everyone’s interest for them to graduate. The university does not want a doctor of philosophy. students … to then fade away for some reason, right? It’s hard enough, but you certainly don’t want it because of a lack of funding. The students themselves want to graduate — everyone wants a doctorate. students to graduate ”.

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