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Graduate Student

I am a PhD Candidate at the University of Victoria. I am very fortunate to receive an NSERC CGS-D scholarship. Despite being one of the more prestigious scholarships for PhD students in Canada, it only amounts to $35k/year, and an internal funding survey in our department revealed that I am one of the highest paid PhD students in my department. Even so, I still choose to supplement my annual income by taking on short industry contracts to make ends meet given the fast-rising cost of living. I can only imagine how much more challenging life must be for PhD students who are paid the average stipend (~$22k/year). When I was considering where to do my PhD, I was seriously considering going to the USA where stipends are higher in my field. I wanted to stay in Canada but the average stipend was far to low. The only reason I stayed was because I was awarded the $35k CGS-D right before I had to make my decision. The current low stipends are contributing to a brain-drain in this country.

If graduate school funding was $35,000 Canadian per year for all students, how would that change your life? Since I currently make $35k/year as a PhD student I can say that this amount of funding allows me a very modest but reasonably comfortable lifestyle. I am not saving any money from this income source, but I am also not going into debt. It is worth noting that I have no children/dependents, and share a small 2-bedroom suite with my partner who earns a higher wage. I also choose to work short industry contracts to contribute some money to my savings.

Thus, I think that increasing the funding for all graduate students to $35k would be a big improvement, but many students (particularly those with children) would still live paycheque to paycheque. As I mentioned in my previous response, $35k/yr would make graduate research in Canada more competitive with programs in the USA (at least in my field), thereby keeping scientific expertise in Canada.


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