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Don't charge graduate students

In an effort to cut costs and save money, the Career Center is outsourcing it credential services, which graduate students use to apply for academic jobs. Instead of using student payments to defray the cost, the Career Center should subsidize the estimated $5,000 bill.

In an effort to cut costs and save money, the Career Center is outsourcing its credential services, which graduate students use to apply for academic jobs. Interfolio Inc, an online company, has the ability to store documents electronically and will improve the quality of the service. The tradeoff, however, is in the hundreds of dollars the new service will cost graduate students, who are already strapped for cash. Instead of using student payments to defray the cost, the Career Center should subsidize the estimated $5,000 bill.

This change is expected to hit humanities graduate students especially hard, since it is not unusual for them to apply for 50 to 100 jobs. At $5 per mailing, it can add up quickly. Graduate students already live on a tight budget, often a stipend of around $14,000 a year, and some students view the new fees as a choice between buying groceries and getting a job.

The University must understand the lives graduate students lead. They subsist on meager stipends and often turn to teaching or other part-time jobs during the final years of completing their degree; some have families that could also feel the strain of the students’ financial struggle. Adding another cost to graduate students’ already tight financial budget is going to be an extreme, and unnecessary, burden.

To the University, the Career Center and most of the humanities departments, $5,000 is not a substantial amount of money. To these graduate students, however, $5,000 is a huge amount of money, and the Career Center should consider the impact that paying for credential services will have on the students. Instead of charging graduate students, the Career Center should find the money somewhere and subsidize the mailings. This would be in the best interest of both the students and the University.

If Duke wants to build up its academic reputation, it should turn out great academics. The University should be encouraging graduate students to apply for the top jobs, and it should be taking all the possible steps toward helping them land those jobs. By making graduate students pay what could amount to hundreds of dollars, however, the University is only accomplishing the opposite—making it more difficult for graduate students to get jobs by effectively limiting their options. If applying to the best job, the reach job, means dishing out another $5, the student may not take that risk. And if the students do not apply for the best jobs, than they will never get them. This is no way for the University to treat scholars.

The Career Center should have done a better job handling the situation. Although the Career Center says it consulted faculty and students before making the decision to outsource, some faculty and students are upset because they weren’t consulted. There should have been greater communication between the Career Center and those most affected by the change. What the Career Center failed to realize is that what it considered a simple move to cut costs and streamline its process actually has a much greater impact on graduate students.

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