College of Liberal Arts policy change to stop graduate student funding after sixth year

Nicole Cobler

A proposed policy change in the College of Liberal Arts that is expected to be implemented during the 2014-2015 academic year will stop funding for graduate students in the college after their sixth year.

Currently, a graduate student may be employed as assistant instructors, graduate research assistants, academic assistants, assistants, teaching assistants and tutors for a maximum of 14 semesters. According to Lauren Apter Bairnsfather, a liberal arts college executive assistant, the college began pushing for quicker degree completion several years ago because there isn't any money coming into the college and the cost of attendance keeps rising.

“This would have the benefit of limiting the amount students have to borrow to attend graduate school and allow us to recruit more successfully and improve degree completion rates,” Bairnsfather said.

Along with stopping funding for graduate students after six years, Bairnsfather said the proposal would increase stipends for teaching assistants and assistant instructors.

“Some of our students are funded for seven and more years with amounts that, spread over a shorter time period, could provide for better stipends,” Bairnsfather said.

David Ochsner, liberal arts college spokesman, said the change would get graduate students out faster.

“I think more students finishing their terms on time will give us more resources to spend on more students and increase the level of stipends,” Ochsner said.

Sean Cashbaugh, an assistant instructor in the American studies department, said the department was informed of the changes through an email from department heads, but he has not seen an official change by the University.

“One of our major concerns is the lack of transparency,” Cashbaugh said. “This is a major change to policy as it currently stands.”

Cashbaugh said the policy change did not consider the unique situations of each student.

“Everybody does different types of work, and the College of Liberal Arts should be attune to that,” Cashbaugh said. “How much time we take to complete our degrees and write our dissertations is best judged by our advisers.”

Although the goal of the policy is to increase stipends for graduate students, Cashbaugh said an increase in the amount of money students are paid wouldn’t always help.

“Paying graduate students more over a short amount of time doesn’t necessarily guarantee they’ll finish faster,” Cashbaugh said.

David Villarreal, Graduate Student Assembly president, said GSA will be working all summer to help students fight the policy change.

"This is a pretty serious thing, at least for graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts, because it affects our livelihood," Villarreal said. "It affects whether we can afford to stay and study at the University."