Graduate Student Funding
Report of an ad hoc Committee of the Faculty Senate
Peter Baker (English)
Ellen Contini-Morava (Anthropology)
Teresa Culver (Civil Engineering)
Adam Daniel (Arts & Sciences Dean's Office)
Robert Davis (Environmental Sciences)
Doris Greiner (Nursing School)
Pamela Kulbok (Nursing School)
Kevin McCrimmon (Mathematics)
Aaron Mills (Environmental Sciences, Co-Chair)
Robert O'Connell (Astronomy, Co-Chair)
Elliott Weiss (Darden School)
Shannon Barthelt-Hunt (Civil Engineering)
Lee Hark (Education School)
Joshua Kempner (Astronomy)
Benjamin Lee (English)
Robert Grainger (Biology)
Patricia Werhane (Darden School)
The University of Virginia aspires to national leadership among
public universities. It has made great strides towards that goal in its undergraduate
and professional programs. However, substantial progress remains to be made
in a third, critical, area: graduate programs.
This report concludes that if the University wishes to assume
genuine national leadership, it must recognize the essential contributions which
graduate programs make to that goal. It must reform its financing structure
so that its programs can compete successfully for the best graduate students
in the country. The underlying philosophy should be that graduate student support
is part of the cost of maintaining a first-rate university and that this is
a central responsibility of the University. The restructuring must significantly
improve tuition coverage and stipends, toward the ultimate goal of providing
full support for all graduate students.
By "graduate" students we mean students in doctorate (Ph.D.) programs
or in Master's programs which include a significant research effort. About 19%
of U.Va.'s students are in this category. A key distinction between professional
and graduate students is that whereas professional students are mainly consumers
of university services, graduate students are largely providers of services.
They are better regarded as an extension of the faculty than as an extension
of the student body.
Graduate students are essential to the research that produces
new knowledge, they are intimately involved in the education of undergraduates,
and they are a key ingredient in attracting talented faculty and keeping them
productive. In turn, the quality of the University's faculty is the single most
important element in determining the value of its undergraduate degrees, the
demand for its graduates, and their potential for success. Therefore, graduate
students are at the very heart of the University's missions.
Universities compete in a national market to attract the best
graduate students by making substantial offers of support for tuition and living
expenses, often covering the entire cost of education. Chronic underfunding
has placed U.va.'s at a major competitive disadvantage because it offers applicants
less compensation for tuition and smaller stipends than the leading programs
nationally. In the last decade, the problem has been exacerbated by rapid increases
in out-of-state tuition (which applies to 65% of graduate students).
Since departments must cover tuition costs for their best recruits,
who are offered teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or non-service
fellowships, these increases have badly overextended available funds. They have
reduced further DRAFT 4/17/02 the competitiveness of U.va.'s offers, limited the
number of applicants accepted, distorted the graduate curriculum, and consumed
valuable discretionary resources.
The initial goal of financial restructuring should be to cover
tuition charges for teaching and research assistants and for all fellowship
students (except where external grants now pay in-state tuition). In each discipline,
U.va.'s should model its funding on those leading programs nationwide with which
it aspires to compete.
In round numbers, coverage of tuition and some expansion in stipend
support will cost about $10 million a year. Although this sounds daunting, it
is only about 3% of the University's budget for academic operations. We believe
that, at least in the near term, public funds drawn from undergraduate tuitions
and the Legislative appropriation will need to be the foundation for graduate
finance restructuring. We urge the Legislature to acknowledge the value of graduate
education, both to undergraduate students and to the economy of the Commonwealth,
by explicitly providing new funds for that purpose.
However, there is no doubt that major private fundraising will
also be required. It would be appropriate, given the urgency of the situation
but also the enormous opportunity for future enhancement of the University,
to make graduate programs a centerpiece of the upcoming Capital Campaign.
This will be a major initiative, but there is no real alternative
if the University intends to maintain, let alone improve, its standing among
the leading universities. We have every confidence in the University's ability
to transform its graduate pro-grams, as it did its undergraduate and professional
programs. It is not unreasonable to expect that, with the full commitment of
the administration, good progress toward the goals could be made in 5 years.
The fundamental purposes of a modern university are to create
knowledge, to preserve knowledge, and to impart knowledge to its students and
the world at large. The creation of new knowledge through research is the most
difficult and challenging mission. Especially in the sciences, medicine, and
engineering, research is the engine behind the new economy in Virginia and the
nation. Responsibility for basic research has been delegated almost exclusively
to the major universities, since it is not carried out on a large scale by any
other segment of our society, including government and industry. This mission
sets "universities" apart from "colleges," which focus primarily on undergraduate
Graduate students are at the very heart of a university's missions.
They are critical to the research that produces new knowledge, they are intimately
involved in the education of undergraduates, and they are a key element in attracting
talented faculty and keeping them productive.
The University of Virginia is justified in the pride it takes
in the quality of its undergraduate and professional programs. In the last forty
years, it has made tremendous strides in improving these programs, and because
of them it is regularly ranked first or second among public universities in
However, to assume the true national leadership to which it aspires,
the University must now make significant improvements in its graduate programs.
The matter is not simply one of additional resources, though these are sorely
needed. Perceptions about graduate students must also change.
One of our main conclusions is that the University, as well as
the central State administration for higher education, has not appreciated the
critical distinction between "graduate" and "professional" students. "Professional"
students are those in the University's Law, Graduate Business, and Medical Schools
or in other Master's programs with a strong career orientation. By "graduate"
students we mean students in doctorate (Ph.D.) programs or in Master's programs
which include a significant research effort.
A key distinction between these groups is that whereas professional
students, like undergraduates, are "consumers" of university services, graduate
students are largely "providers" of services for the University. They significantly
enhance teach-in and research in the University. Graduate students are better
regarded as an extension of the faculty than as an extension of the student
Professional students compete to gain admission and are willing
to pay large fees for the services we offer. By contrast, universities compete
to recruit the best graduate students by making substantial offers of support
for tuition and living expenses. In many cases, universities cover the entire
costs of education and subsistence for their graduate students. The national
market for graduate students is therefore inverted with respect to that for
The University of Virginia is at a major competitive disadvantage
in this market because we offer applicants less compensation for tuition and
smaller stipends than the leading programs at other universities. A rapid rise
in out-of-state tuition during the last decade has exacerbated our financial
difficulties to the extent that the viability of the University's graduate programs
and research mission is now threatened.
This report reviews the goals of graduate education, the contributions
which graduate programs make to the missions of major universities, and the
ways in which graduate programs are supported. It then evaluates graduate financing
at the University of Virginia and its present weaknesses with respect to its
peer institutions. The report concludes with a discussion of the ways in which
graduate financing at Virginia should be restructured to meet the challenges
of national leadership among public universities.
II. Goals of Graduate Education
Training Leaders for Modern Society
The broad goal of graduate education is to produce an educated
individual who can enter a career based on the development of new knowledge,
techniques, or products and who can assume a position of leadership in that
field. Graduate programs recruit the best and the brightest undergraduate students
to participate in a long-term tutorial relationship with a mentor, learning
how to undertake research programs, to think independently, to solve problems,
and to instruct others. By honing these skills, the leading graduate schools
produce the next generation of leaders in academia, industry, and government.
These make most of the new discoveries that provide the creative energy that
drives the economy of the Commonwealth and the nation.
Award of a graduate degree marks the completion of a high-level
apprenticeship as a researcher/scholar. The nation's intellectual leadership
arises directly from graduate programs. In the majority of cases, the advanced
degree also marks completion of an apprenticeship as a teacher. All college
and university faculty, as well as most high school teachers, are products of
graduate programs. The nation's science establishment (private and governmental
researchers and administrators) is almost entirely run by Ph.D.'s.
The overall intellectual discipline, adaptability, and analytic
skills learned in the process of earning an advanced degree have wide application.
Ph.D.'s often DRAFT 4/17/02 distinguish themselves outside the narrow confines
of their chosen discipline. A notable example from U.va.'s is Frank Levinson (Ph.D.,
Astronomy), who founded a fiber optics company and recently contributed $20,000,000
to U.va.'s to fund a center on religion and democracy and a major observational
program in astronomy. Another example is W. Nathaniel Howell (Ph.D., Government
and Foreign Affairs) who is a noted expert on Middle-Eastern politics and is
a former U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait.
III. Contributions of Graduate Students to the University
In this section, we review the general interactions between the
University and its graduate students.
The 17,700 students enrolled at the University of Virginia in
2001 comprised 12,300 undergraduates, 2,100 professional students (Law, Medicine,
and Graduate Business), and 3,300 graduate students. Graduate students therefore
represented 19% of the entire student body. Considered as a unit, the graduate
programs are larger than any of the University's schools except Arts and Sciences.
Graduate students play a different role in university life than
their undergraduate and professional counterparts. While all three draw educational
services from the university, most graduate students also contribute to the
educational and scholarly activities of the institution in a significant way.
Graduate students and professional students are commonly thought of together,
as if there were no difference between them. But there is a world of difference.
Professional students are essentially consumers of the educational services
the University provides. Professional students come to the University to engage
in a set course of instruction in preparation for a specific career. In the
end, they leave the University and take their newly acquired knowledge and skills
with them. Some engage in research, but this is not an essential or expected
part of their training. Graduate students, on the other hand, are both consumers
and producers of the University's services, contributing substantively to its
educational and research missions, and contributing after graduation to society's
core of knowledge.
A. Consumers of Educational Services
Like other students, graduate students take advantage of the educational
offerings of the University. They take courses and receive training in independent
learning situations under the guidance of faculty instructors and advisors.
Formal course work in a Ph.D. program may last 2-3 years but normally comprises
only 15-20 courses, about half the load typical of undergraduate degree programs.
In a number of areas, especially for some terminal Masters programs, graduate
students DRAFT 4/17/02 are functionally similar to professional students. In
other Master's programs and in the Ph.D. programs, however, there are important
additional relationships to the institution.
B. Providers of Services to the Academic Division
Universities take advantage of the expertise of graduate students
to enhance the education of undergraduates. In fact, given the large ratio of
undergraduates to faculty staffing, use of graduate teaching assistants (GTA's)
has become essential in most major universities. For example, in Spring 2001,
there were 81 sections of the English Department's basic writing and literature
courses staffed by graduate students. Likewise, in Mathematics, 38 of the 65
sections of introductory calculus courses were taught by graduate students.
In the sciences and engineering, graduate students are involved in teaching
almost every laboratory course offered. GTA's handle much of the teaching in
the Summer Sessions. Overall, in 2001 there were 850 GTA's employed by the University.
Graduate students also help with Study Abroad programs in the
foreign languages. They provide mentoring to undergraduates as residents in
dormitories and language houses (e.g., the Spanish House), and they teach conversation
practice and English as a Second Language.
Thus, the University's undergraduate program depends on graduate
instructors. One sometimes hears the criticism that involvement of GTA's detracts
from the quality of undergraduate instruction, but this is misplaced. Without
GTA's, faculty members could only handle the additional course load with dramatic
increases in class sizes and corresponding reductions in the quality of teaching
and personal attention for students. Furthermore, GTA's are highly capable and
motivated individuals, eager to serve their charges well. Their involvement
in teaching also serves the University's mission to train students as prospective
teachers and in the effective public communication of their ideas. What GTA's
may lack in experience, they usually more than make up for in enthusiasm and
rapport with their students. Almost all the excellent teachers now on the faculty
began their careers as GTA's.
C. Providers of Service to the Scholarly Mission
Graduate students are essential to the University's programs of
research and scholarship. Students in the experimental sciences conduct much
of U.va.'s externally funded research. These typically become active collaborators
with their faculty advisors and co-author publications with them. In 2001, there
were 650 graduate students employed by U.va.'s as Graduate Research Assistants (GRA's)
on external grant funds.
Master's students are usually given a problem to answer independently
with some guidance from their faculty advisor. Ph.D. students conduct original
research on a problem of their choice designed within the context of larger
programs directed by the faculty. Especially in the latter case, the intellectual
contribution of the students to the overall research effort cannot be overstated.
They are central to the research productivity of the University and to the beneficial
consequences that research has for the economy of the Commonwealth.
In all fields, graduate students are an important stimulus to
the general research environment. They are important in fostering an active
intellectual atmosphere in which new ideas are discussed and evaluated. The
advanced courses, research seminars, and doctoral tutorials provided for students
are opportunities for faculty researchers to explore current work, and a critical
mass of interacting participants is a necessary catalyst for creativity.
Graduate students contribute to the scholarly mission in many
additional ways. Older graduate students help organize research groups and train
novice researchers. They help edit academic journals that are housed in University
departments. They help prepare faculty manuscripts for publication by editing,
indexing, providing illustrations, and checking references. Students in the
Teaching and Technology Student Partners Program help with web site and database
design, help train faculty in information and instructional technology, and
inform themselves and the faculty about emerging software and hardware resources
for research and teaching.
Thus, a core of talented graduate students is as crucial to the
University's research mission as it is to its teaching mission.
D. Contributors to Faculty Development
The influence of graduate students on the strength of the faculty
is important but often unacknowledged.
Faculty members have many responsibilities beyond the obvious
ones of teach-in, research, and local administration. They are involved in
curriculum development; in enhancing essential University resources such as
library collections, computing facilities, and laboratories; in obtaining external
funding from private donors, government agencies, or industrial sponsors; in
University service such as search committees and faculty governance; in peer
review; in organizing conferences; as members or elected officers of scholarly
organizations; and in serving on national or international advisory panels.
Such activities are not only important to University operations
but also enhance faculty reputations and influence. To the extent that good
graduate students reduce the burden of routine work on faculty members, they
make tangible contributions to faculty development and effectiveness.
Most importantly, vigorous and high quality graduate programs
are essential to attracting and retaining first-rate faculty. The best faculty
candidates expect stimulating graduate students and in many fields know that
their own research productivity will depend on the quality of their graduate
students. They therefore look critically at the quality of the University's
graduate programs and the level of support offered to graduate students.
The quality of the University's faculty is the single most important
element in determining the value of its undergraduate degrees, the demand for
its graduates, and their potential for success. Graduate students play an essential
role in enhancing the quality and productivity of the faculty.
IV. Graduate Student Support Mechanisms
Universities provide their graduate students with three broad
categories of sup-port: tuition and fees, living expenses, and fringe benefits.
Tuition and fees are usually the largest component of nominal
graduate school expenses. However, few universities expect their graduate students
to pay advertised tuition rates, and most do their best to minimize out-of-pocket
Consequently, tuition is also the most complicated aspect of graduate
support. Tuition may be charged according to year in school, course load, and/or
(in public universities) residency status (in-state vs. out-of-state). Universities
may defray tuition by simply waiving it, reclassifying out-of-state residents
to in-state status, providing a cash fellowship to the student, covering costs
with grants or private funds, or paying an inflated cash living allowance which
is sufficient to cover normal living expenses plus tuition.
Most leading public universities make their graduate students
eligible for in-state tuition, either while working in Assistantship positions
or after a specified period of time (e.g. 1 year).
Stipends (i.e. living expenses after tuition has been covered)
may be provided in the form of a fellowship or in payment for services rendered
to the university, usually as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) or a Graduate
Research Assistant (GRA). Appointments to Assistantships may be full- or part-time.
They usually carry with them an expectation of coverage of some or all tuition.
The main fringe benefit offered to graduate students is health
V. Current Support at the University of Virginia
At U.va.'s, tuition for a graduate student taking a regular, full-time
course load is $5139 for Virginia residents and $18229 for out-of-state residents
(values are for academic year 2001-2002). Students are normally in this status
for their first three years, after which they are charged only for research
supervision at a greatly reduced rate ($1603).
U.va.'s out-of-state tuition differential of $13090 is one of the
largest in the country. Since over 65% of graduate students at U.va.'s are classified
as out-of-state residents, the differential has a major impact on graduate program
U.va.'s has a stringent policy on initial classification as an in-state
resident, and once a student is admitted as an out-of-state resident, it is
nearly impossible in practice to be re-classified as a Virginia resident. Combined
with the large out-of-state tuition differential, this policy seems to be intended
to maximize the revenue flow from graduate students.
Current policy at U.va.'s is that the in-state portion of tuition
is forgiven (in the form of a "tuition remission") for all students employed
as GTA's. Additionally, "Tuition Differential Fellowships" (TDF's) are available
for most of the GTA's who are out-of-state residents. TDF's are essentially
accounting offsets, not involving an exchange of cash, and are allocated to
the individual schools by the Provost's office.
At present, there are fewer TDF's available than there are out-of-state
GTA's. Consequently, departments have been forced to spread the limited TDF
funds as far as possible by splitting GTA appointments. Half-time GTA's are
eligible for full TDF coverage, but they receive, of course, only half the regular
stipend. This means that the typical GTA stipend in Economics, for instance,
is only half the national average. In general, GTA assignments are made to minimize
the impact of the out-of-state differential on department budgets, rather than
in ways that might be best for teaching and research in the department.
The situation is more difficult for GRA's. In-state tuition is
covered for GRA's, but by cash transfer from departmental funds (usually the
employing grant or con-tract), not by remissions. TDF's are unfortunately not
available for GRA's. Furthermore, U.va.'s has adopted a policy which prohibits
federal grants from being used to pay the tuition differential. This means that
departments must use their own discretionary funds or special private resources
(such as the Pratt bequest) to cover tuition differentials for most GRA's.
The constraints on TDF availability have reached a critical point
in the Engineering School, where researchers will not be able to increase the
volume of federally-sponsored research because they cannot find tuition funds
to hire graduate students to do the work.
Tuition coverage is most difficult for non-service fellowships
(such as the Presidential Fellowships and Jefferson Fellowships), since these
are currently ineligible for both TDF's and in-state tuition remission. Tuition
payments for students with such fellowships, the best in the entering class,
must come from school or depart-mental discretionary funds. The total real cost
(tuition and stipend) for our prize fellowship awards has therefore risen to
$35000-40000 per year for out-of-state students. In some cases, holders of
ostensibly prestigious awards like the President's Fellowships have been required
to undertake GTA duties in order to qualify for TDF support. This is obviously
The limited availability of tuition funding has produced artificial
distortions in the graduate curriculum in a number of departments. Students
are able to take classes for credit only when and to the extent that TDF moneys
are available. Since graduate courses may not be offered every year, this can
result in students missing important courses altogether or forgoing special
opportunities (a one-time course by a visiting professor, for instance). In
rationing TDF support, departments must ask students to audit courses rather
than take them for credit. This reduces the number of earned credits and degrades
the students' academic credentials. The situation is especially severe in Environmental
Sciences, which is a highly interdisciplinary field. TDF constraints greatly
inhibit exploratory course work across disciplines and specializations. Students
can have their entire curriculum dictated by the availability of TDF money.
In fall 2001, U.va.'s began providing basic health insurance coverage
for all students. earning $5000 or more from GTA, GRA, or fellowship funds.
Our committee applauds this substantial positive step towards better graduate
Another important recent initiative was the Faculty Senate Dissertation
Year Fellowship program. This was an excellent example of how to mobilize and
leverage existing sources of discretionary funds at the University level. The
very large response (an over subscription of applications to awards of about
6:1) also indicates the degree to which support is currently unavailable even
for some of our best students.
Overall, it is clear that U.va.'s is not now able to meet fully its
own internal standards for graduate support (e.g. that tuition is covered for
all employed graduate students or that prize fellowship students should not
be asked to work to earn their tuition). The rapid increases in out-of-state
tuition charges, but not in TDF's, during the last decade have been the main
culprit in overextending existing resources.
In authorizing graduate tuition increases, University officials
may not have appreciated that it was the departments, not the students, which
in many cases were forced to pay these charges. Departmental funds which previously
could have been used for graduate stipends or start-up packages for new faculty,
for instance, were transferred to central U.va.'s coffers instead, with little direct
benefit in return. From a departmental point of view, this was a singularly
unproductive use of scarce discretionary resources.
This discussion bears only on one index of the financial health
of U.va.'s graduate programs, namely the adequacy of resources made available
to students who are intended to be fully supported. The other index is the fraction
of its graduate student population that U.va.'s is able to support by these mechanisms.
That fraction is clearly smaller than is healthy. This means that programs are
smaller than at our peer institutions and that there is no flexibility to enlarge
them in those cases where strong applicant pools would warrant a modest expansion.
These are both key issues in U.va.'s ability to compete in the national
market for good graduate students, which we take up in the next section.
VI. Falling Behind By National Standards
A. Competition in the National Market
he University of Virginia aspires to national leadership among
public universities. It is fair to say it has achieved that with regard to
its undergraduate and professional programs. It is regularly ranked with the
University of California at Berkeley in these areas. However, in graduate programs,
Berkeley is considerably more distinguished, with over 90% of its disciplines
ranked in the top-10 in the country, whereas U.va.'s has half of its disciplines
ranked outside the top-20. In terms of graduate programs, a number of public
universities rank above U.va.'s
Over the last 15 years, U.va.'s has not been able to make much headway
in improving its graduate programs. When its efforts are placed in the national
context, it is clear that chronic underfunding of its programs has played a
major role in limiting its progress.
The market for good graduate students is national, even international,
in scope. Since Virginia represents only 2.5% of the population of the United
States, the great majority of good applicants to U.va.'s graduate programs will
always be out-of-state residents. In its efforts to attract the best students,
even Virginia residents, U.va.'s is in direct competition with leading universities
across the country.
Offers of financial support are essential ingredients in this
In most of the sciences and engineering, it is normal and expected
that universities will guarantee full support (tuition, living expenses,
and benefits) for the duration of a graduate student's career. This applies
to all students, not just the best prospects.
Full coverage of graduate school costs is less frequent in other
disciplines, but it is a goal toward which many institutions are moving. For
instance, the English departments at Columbia and Princeton increased their
average graduate stipend for 2002 by an average of 13.8% over 2001 levels, despite
low inflation in the cost-of-living index. More ambitiously, Stanford and Duke
are working in aggressive and innovative ways to raise the level of support
for their graduate students and making this the responsibility of the central
administration, not relying on grants raised by individual departments. Stanford
has launched a drive to secure a $200 million endowment that will support 300
graduate students a year. Each student would be supported for three years. Such
fellowship support has the advantage that students are free to choose their
research topics independent of external funding of research projects.
The University has never supported its graduate programs at levels
commensurate with the best in the country, but its appeal as a place to live
and work were often mitigating factors. These advantages are now increasingly
easily overcome by other universities, even of significantly lower rank, that
are able to make much better financial offers to prospects. A primary difficulty
has been the rapid increase in U.va.'s out-of-state tuition in the absence of
a compensatory increase in funding for tuition offsets.
U.va.'s ability to compete successfully for good graduate students
is therefore rapidly diminishing.
B. Inadequacy of U.Va. Offers to Graduate Applicants
The shortfalls are documented in a number of statistical surveys.
Since 1998, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has surveyed
those highly recruited graduate applicants who did not enroll at U.va.'s Poor financial
offers were cited most frequently as the reason for rejecting U.va.'s offer. Other
factors were significantly less important.
In a 2000 report, Arts and Sciences compared data for 23 of its
departments with similar departments at 13 SCHEV Peer Group institutions. The
data were extracted from the University of Nebraska's National Survey of Graduate
Assistant Stipends, Graduate Fellowships, and Postdoctoral Fellowships (published
in 1999). U.va.'s mean net stipend (total support per student less tuition) was
over 20% lower than for the peer group.
Although this represents a useful benchmark, the Nebraska survey
omitted most of the leading private universities who are U.va.'s most important
competitors. Many academically weaker institutions offer significantly better
support than does U.va.'s Our true peer institutions, such as Duke or Washington
University, offer net stipends which are typically 50% higher.
In a summary by the American Association of Universities of GTA
net stipends at 27 universities for 2000-2001, U.va.'s ranked in the bottom quartile.
Its average stipend was 16% below the mean. Once again, however, this survey
omitted most of the private universities with whom U.va.'s is in direct competition.
These figures do not incorporate the fraction of students who
are not offered support, but that fraction is larger at U.va.'s than at comparable
C. Detrimental Effects on Departments
The shortfall in graduate funding figures prominently in most
of the Program Reviews of individual departments which have been conducted under
the auspices of the Shannon Center since 1998. Its detrimental effects on one
of our leading departments were analyzed by the 2001 external Visiting Committee
for the English department. We quote from their report at length because it
crystallizes the difficulties facing most programs at U.va.'s:
"Beyond any doubt, the graduate students are seriously under-funded.
They frequently must take other jobs during the academic year and work all summer
to keep body and soul together. It is surprising that so many relatively good
students come, and not surprising that it takes them an inordinate time to get
the Ph.D. In the present practice, many students are unfunded in their first
year, an anomaly in programs of U.va.'s stature. Even in those years when all
students are eligible for funding through a combination of fellowships and scholarships,
the total annual packages are some 30-50% lower than those at competitor institutions.
(The fact that students in English, we were told, are generally better supported
than others in the humanities at U.va.'s makes the problem all the more shocking.)
Poor funding has obvious consequences for graduate student quality
and morale. The record of admissions in relation to acceptances is dismal.
At most, two of the top ten admits choose to come, we were told. Applicants,
not surprisingly, often choose to go to less good places where the funding is
The funding situation is made even worse by the state regulations
that prohibit out-of-state students from ever becoming residents, except in
rare DRAFT 4/17/02 cases, and so qualifying for reduced tuition. There can be
only one reason for this: to make money out of graduate student tuitions, but
this is in direct contradiction to the stated goal of U.va.'s to be a major research
university. Achieving that goal means having well-funded graduate students from
all over the United States and from the rest of the world."
This is a remarkably harsh assessment for an institution that
likes to think of itself as setting a standard for American public universities.
It testifies to the University's failure to give priority to its graduate programs
commensurate with that afforded its undergraduate and professional programs.
VII. Restructuring Graduate Financing
We conclude that if the University wishes to assume genuine national
leadership, it must recognize the essential contributions which graduate programs
make to that goal. It must reform its financing structure so that its programs
can compete successfully for the best graduate students in the country.
The underlying philosophy of this restructuring should be that
graduate student support is part of the cost of maintaining a first-rate university.
Graduate financing should be a central responsibility of the University, not
delegated primarily to the individual schools.
The restructuring must encompass improved tuition coverage for
supported students in all three categories (GTA's, GRA's, and fellowships),
better stipends for supported students, and an increase in the total fraction
of the graduate population receiving support.
The initial goal of the restructuring should be to cover the cost
of all tuition charges for GTA's and fellowship recipients and the differential
tuition charges for GRA's (whose in-state tuition would continue to be covered
by grants). In practice, this means asking the central administration to find
new sources of funds for tuition, where existing funds fall short, and to substitute
University funds where departmental discretionary accounts are now paying tuition.
To the extent that the burden of tuition support is removed from the departments,
their discretionary accounts can be used to improve graduate stipends or for
Simultaneously, U.va.'s should seek to improve its stipends and enlarge
the fraction of its student population to whom it offers stipend support through
GTA's, GRA's, and fellowships. In each discipline, it should model its funding
on those leading programs nationwide with which it aspires to compete. This
may mean increasing the ratio of faculty and GTA's to undergraduate students
beyond the traditional levels authorized by State formulae prior to 1990. However,
those levels were never DRAFT 4/17/02 appropriate for a national university
and were, in fact, an impediment to excellence. The Commonwealth itself has
abandoned any adherence to the traditional funding formulae, so we should not
consider ourselves bound by them.
The ultimate, long-term goal should be to provide full support
for all graduate students, regardless of discipline or appointment status, assuming
that the quality of recruits merits this.
Financial restructuring could take several different forms. However,
we expect that, at least in the near term, public funds drawn from undergraduate
tuitions and the Legislative appropriation will need to be the foundation for
graduate finance restructuring. Such funds are already the basis for remissions,
differentials, and stipends for GTA's. Although it represents a departure from
the philosophy of the past, we believe that tuition compensation for fellowship
students and for the tuition differentials of GRA's should be financed by public
funds as well. The justification for this is that graduate programs as a whole
contribute materially to the stature of the University, to the quality of its
faculty, and ultimately to the value of an undergraduate degree. They are part
of the basic cost of a University education.
It would be most important if the Legislature acknowledged the
value of graduate education, both to undergraduate students and to the economy
of the Common-wealth, by explicitly providing new funds for that purpose.
U.va.'s must also make a concerted effort, by coordinating with departments
and individual faculty, to develop new sources of training grants intended specifically
for graduate student tuition and stipends.
In some disciplines, such as the biomedical sciences, research
grant funds may be sufficiently elastic to cover the full cost of tuition for
GRA's, and the University should obviously take advantage of that. It should
remove artificial barriers to expenditure of grant funds on tuition differentials.
However, such elasticity is not characteristic of all disciplines. There are
usually implicit caps on the size of individual research grants from agencies
such as NSF and NASA, and the use of funds for graduate tuition diverts them
from other productive purposes. The extent to which grants can be exploited
to cover tuition will vary greatly among the disciplines. And many of the most
pressing difficulties, of course, are in disciplines without access to external
We believe it is counterproductive in general to use discretionary
funds such as unrestricted departmental gift accounts, the Pratt bequest, or
grant overhead earnings for tuition. These funds are more valuable when reserved
for active research programs, faculty start-up investments, and other initiatives
which can build strength for the future.
These adjustments involving public funds, existing discretionary
funds, and grant funds will move us partway toward the goal of excellence in
graduate programs. However, there is no doubt that new initiatives in private
fundraising will also be required. Indeed, the Virginia 2020 report on Science
and Technology made improved private funding for graduate programs a central
In order for fundraising to be successful it should focus on strategies
that have unique value for our graduate programs and are at the same time attractive
to donors. A fellowship program like the current Senate Dissertation Year awards
to support students who are both outstanding scholars and teachers is one possible
model. The recent initiative at Stanford, providing named fellowships for very
talented students in innovative training programs, is another. Campaigns in
targeted research areas (e.g. the humanities or science and technology) would
address critical needs while offering donors the opportunity to invest in areas
of special interest to them. Relatively modest investments in some areas, like
summer support for students in the humanities and social sciences, should be
vigorously pursued as well. It would be appropriate, given the urgency of the
situation but also the enormous opportunity for future enhancement of the University,
to make graduate programs a centerpiece of the upcoming Capital Campaign.
VIII. Concluding Remarks
The reforms we have proposed would ultimately involve significant
shifts in the central administration of graduate financing. In round numbers,
the coverage of graduate tuition and some expansion in stipend support will
cost about $10 million a year. This sounds daunting, but it is not really a
large sum in the context of the $300 million University budget for academic
operations. For instance, it represents an increase of only $830 in tuition
for each of our 12,000 undergraduate students. This is modest compared to the
increase of about $5000 in out-of-state undergraduate tuition which has been
imposed since 1995.
Although much of the current funding shortfall has arisen from
specific U.va.'s policies-e.g. the restrictiveness of Virginia resident classification
or the large out-of-state tuition differential-we do not necessarily recommend
changing these policies. Any method to reach the goals above-for instance, reclassification
of residency, tuition forgiveness, or substitution of other funds for cash payments
from students-will have a similar impact on the net cost of the restructuring.
The ultimate issue is of one of money, not policy.
Given the present crisis in the budget for the Commonwealth, this
would seem to be a bad time to begin a major financial reform. On the other
hand, there is never a "good" time for serious change of this sort. The University
nonetheless had DRAFT 4/17/02 the will and the means to undertake major transformations
in its undergraduate and professional programs. We have every confidence in
its ability to do the same with its graduate programs. It is not unreasonable
to expect that with the full commitment of the administration, good progress
toward the goals could be made in 5 years.
This will be a major initiative, but there is no real alternative
if U.va.'s intends to maintain, let alone improve, its standing among the leading
- Senate Members
- Executive Council
- Committees & Task Forces
- Faculty Senate Survey
- Meetings & Minutes
- U.Va. Committee Representatives
- Faculty Grievances
- Reports & Documents
- Faculty Senate Degree Program Review, Resolutions, and Statements
- Chair's Report - Kenneth Schwartz (November 29, 2006)
- Faculty Demographics - Gertrude Fraser (November 29, 2006)
- Kenneth Schwartz's Remarks to the Faculty Senators, September 21, 2006
- Kenneth Schwartz's Remarks to the BOV Educational Policy Committee -- September 12, 2006
- New Senator Orientation 2006/2007, August 28, 2006
- Faculty Senate Report - Houston Wood, Chair & Kenneth Schwartz, Chair-Elect
- Chair's End of the Year Report (2006) -- Houston G. Wood, Chair
- Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee on the Mt. Graham Telescope Project
- Proposal for a Faculty Senate By Laws Amendment -- Kenneth Schwartz
- A University Policy Recommendation -- Teresa Culver
- Houston G. Wood Comments to the Board of Visitors -- April 7, 2006
- Statement of the Faculty Senate Against Intolerance, September 19, 2005
- Chair's End of the Year Report (2005) -- Marcia Day Childress, Chair
- Marcia Day Childress - Comments to the Board of Visitors, February 3, 2005
- Statement of the University of Virginia Faculty Senate on Restructuring Public Higher Education in Virginia
- Marcia Day Childress Comments to the BOV Education Policy Committee -- September 18, 2004
- Robert E. Davis Comments to the Board of Visitors -- October 3, 2003
- Michael J. Smith Comments to the Board of Visitors -- April 5, 2003
- Michael J. Smith Comments to the Board of Visitors -- October 5, 2002
- Faculty Senate resolution regarding the University of Virginia's current admissions policies (October 4, 1999)
- The Role of Information Technology in the Life of the University: A University-Wide Conversation
- Faculty Senate Retreat - 2005-2006
- Faculty Senate Retreat - 2004-2005
- Faculty Senate Retreat - 2002-2003
- Faculty Senate Retreat - 2001-2002
- Faculty Senate Retreat - 2000-2001
- Faculty Senate Retreat - 1999-2000
- Faculty Senate Retreat - 1998-1999
- Reports on IT Usage at UVA, Faculty Senate
- Academic Affairs Committee
- Charge to Committee on Academic Affairs
- Graduate Student Funding
- Initiative to Promote Excellent Teaching
- Reports on IT Usage
- Residence Halls Conversations
- Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Development
- Dissertation-Year Fellowships Review
- Dissertation-Year Fellowships - 2004-2005
- Dynamic Synergy: Teaching and Research at the University of Virginia
- Faculty Senate Resolution
- Policy and Procedures
- Faculty Grievance Committee
- Harrison Undergraduate Research Award Recipients 1999-2000
- Harrison Undergraduate Research Award Recipients 2001-2002
- Harrison Award Winners 2002-2003
- Harrison Undergraduate Research Award Recipients 1999
- Academic Affairs Committee
- Recommendations Concerning Interdisciplinary Teaching
- A University-Wide Discussion of the Role of Information Technology: Reports
- Junior Faculty Development and Retention
- Department of Mechanical, Aerospace & Nuclear Engineering - School of Engineering & Applied Science
- Faculty Senate Planning and Development Committee 2005-2006
- Charge to Research and Scholarship Committee
- Committee on Research and Scholarship
- Research and Scholarship Committee
- Research and Scholarship Committee
- University-wide Conversation on Teaching
- University-wide Conversation on Teaching
- Information Technology and the Life of the University: A Conversation
- University Teaching initiative Projects
- University-Wide Teaching Conversations
- Statement to the Virginia Tech Community
- A Faculty Senate Vision for U.Va.
- Feasibility Study for a Graduate Professional Student Studies Center at U.Va.
- School of Architecture
- Department of English
- Department of Economics
- Department of Environmental Sciences
- Department of History
- Department of Mathematics
- Department of Philosophy
- Department of Physics
- Department of Religious Studies
- McIntire School of Commerce
- Darden School of Business
- Department of Curriculum, Instruction, & Special Education
- Department of Human Services
- Department of Leadership, Foundations, & Policy
- School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
- School of Law
- School of Medicine
- Department of Biochemistry
- School of Nursing
- Degree Program Review, Resolutions, and Statements
- Awards & Fellowships
- Constitution and Bylaws
- Archived Documents
- FAQS And Resources
- Join Us on Facebook
- Follow us on Twitter