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Graduate Student

Updated: Aug 4, 2022

My school halved its master's student funding the year I started, meaning I had only one year of tuition covered despite being awarded the highest entrance scholarship. My program does not even offer, never mind guarantee, TA or RA positions for master's students. My stipend from my supervisor is well below a living wage and tri-council level support. I won a provincial scholarship, however, this goes to my supervisor to reduce his contributions to my stipend and not to me. I received no increase in funding despite winning a competitive research award. This has been incredibly stressful as I had to move to find cheaper rent, Ph.D.on which is still more than I can afford. This reality has made me completely reconsider pursuing a PhD or staying in academia because of the toll it would take on not only myself but also starting a family, which would essentially be impossible as I currently cannot cover my own very minimal costs of living never mind those for a child.

If graduate funding was CAD $35,000/yr for all students, how would that change your life? Increasing graduate funding to 35000 would be very helpful for mePh.D.the as it would be a living wage in my current city so I would not have to worry about rent, groceries, etc. I would still be wary of continuing to a PhD and academia in general as I don't think 35k or 60k are enough to live on in the most expensive cities in Canada. I think there should be some considerations for cost of living, whether that be increased funding in some areas or subsidies for housing costs that come with funding that would be proportional to the cost of living in the area. PhDs and postdocs do not really get to choose where they live so the large discrepancies in cost of living must be taken into account. I also believe that 60k is still too low for post docs. Industry equivalents for employees with doctoral level education are significantly higher; if we value research in academic settings then funding amounts need to be competitive to retain those researchers and reflect their training and skill level.

Additional Comments: I'm not sure if or where this may fit in the funding discussion, but unions for graduate students and getting unions for postdocs would also be hugely important to better protect students in overworked/power imbalanced relationships with PIs who can make or break funding awards and stipends in general, as well as work-life balances and time off. Health care benefits should also be improved as this is a huge accessibility barrier to so many, as graduate student health care plans offer much lower coverage than many jobs with equivalent education requirements. This leaves anyone with chronic health issues, disabilities, and families struggling to afford medical care while in academia or simply not entering academia at all because the lack of benefits and low pay prohibit access to affordable health care.


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