You never really expect to open your inbox and see an email that changes the lives of you and all your peers, said Claire Ravenscroft, Ph.D. candidate in English. But Thursday, she did.
The University announced that the pay schedule for all Ph.D. students will be 12 months, meaning that Duke’s 2,400 graduate students will receive the full yearly stipend for the five years that Duke guarantees their funding beginning in 2022.
Ravenscroft, a member of the Duke Graduate Students Union's pay campaign, explained that it’s a change the group has been advocating for more than a year.
"We consider the decision to be an enormous victory in the more than a year-long process,” Ravenscroft said.
Provost Sally Kornbluth announced the change in a news release Thursday. The change will go into effect in fall 2022. Currently, Ph.D. students receive either nine or 12-month stipends depending on what their program can afford, but the change will ensure that all of Duke’s Ph.D. students are on the 12-month schedule.
The change reflects Duke's strong commitment to graduate education, Kornbluth said in the release.
“It will require us to identify and sustain the necessary resources and to make what may be difficult choices around enrollment management and internal allocation of funds, but it will also ensure that Duke can continue to compete for the best students and provide the most fulfilling educational experience,” she said.
With the nine-month schedule, students would be left without funding in the summer if they were not able to secure it from sources other than their normal stipend. The Graduate School offered a “significant number of summer research fellowships that help bridge the gap for students on nine-month funding,” John Zhu, senior public affairs officer of the Duke Graduate School, wrote in a 2018 email about the pay schedule.
The current 12-month stipend is $31,160.
"I am thrilled that Duke is shifting to a 12-month stipend for all Ph.D.s, which has been one of GPSC’s highest priorities,” said Travis Dauwalter, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council and a Ph.D. student in public policy and economics.
Ravenscroft said that the change "strengthens [her] conviction in the power of DGSU and workers on this campus."
The group, which Ravenscroft said is Southern Region Workers United SEIU Local 27, particularly ramped up the push for the pay change in the last few weeks and was in the midst of organizing a protest event for next Thursday called “Pay-Ville.” The event will still happen, Ravenscroft said, but they’re hammering out exactly what it will look like now that the change has been announced.
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The University guarantees funding for graduate students through their fifth year, and covers health-care premiums for the students through their sixth year.
“While the majority of our Ph.D. students already receive year-round funding, we believe that providing 12-month stipends, at the full rate, is vital for the future of doctoral education at Duke,” Graduate School Dean Paula McClain said in the news release.
The dean went on to say she was grateful for the leadership of GPSC in advocating for the issue.
Another point that graduate students have advocated for in recent months was a need for new students relocating to Durham to receive funding sooner than the end of September. Beginning this fall, Duke is bumping their access to the funding up to help with the relocation costs.
Dauwalter said in the release that he wants to thank University leaders for recognizing the benefits the change will have on the Duke students' experiences.
“For students who are on a nine-month stipend, this new commitment will eliminate the anxiety of securing external funding over the summer, and they can turn their attention to their research and dissertation,” he said.
Correction: This article was updated to reflect that Pay-ville is scheduled for next Thursday, not next Saturday. The Chronicle regrets the error. It was also updated to clarify that year-round schedule applies to the five years that students are guaranteed a stipend for.