Money woes continue for grad students

A survey found many are forced to get second jobs to make ends meet.

Money woes continue for grad students

Living expenses and rising education costs continue to burden University of Minnesota graduate students, according to a recent survey.

A biennial survey released last week by the Council of Graduate Students  found that many students have to find second jobs or take out loans to cover tuition, fees and living expenses. 

The COGS 2013 Graduate and Professional Student Survey polled more than 3,800 graduate and professional students. This is the first year that professional students were surveyed.

About 64 percent of respondents said searching for ways to pay their entire student bill was a source of stress.

Although her job as a teaching assistant pays all of her tuition, geography doctoral candidate Hillary Waters said she’s had to take out loans to help pay her student fees.

“The fact we all have to pay fees makes the cost of living even harder. We don’t have a lot of money to begin with,” she said.

Student fees continue to be a significant burden for graduate students, Waters said, because they aren’t covered by students’ University compensation packages.

About 65 percent of survey respondents said paying student fees is a burden.

Waters said about 10 percent of her teaching assistant supplement goes toward student fees.

Economics doctoral candidate Kailin Clarke said it would be better if the University deducted student fees from students’ paychecks, because then fees wouldn’t be taxed.

“Just that alone would make things better than the way they are,” he said.

About 41 percent of survey respondents said they supplement their income with other jobs outside of their assistantships, though that number varied widely by discipline.

Students say having an outside job in addition to academic work can be a struggle. Speech, language and hearing sciences graduate student Danneka Miller  said it’s difficult to balance doing well in school with working a second job.

“It causes a great deal of strain in managing and trying to juggle everything,” she said.

Waters said finding additional ways to make money takes away from time that she could use to do research.

“I think extra jobs are a huge thing that limits our progress towards our degree,” she said. “It can keep us from doing the work we need to do to get our
degree.”

Psychology doctoral candidate Rachel Clark took a second job in addition to working as a graduate instructor in order to pay living expenses and school costs, a situation she said is common among other students.

“The cost of living can be very tough for graduate students,” she said. “A lot of times you need more than one job to make it work.”

COGS President Andrew McNally said some administrators and student leaders worry whether graduate and professional students will be able to pay their way through school.

“I think there’s a large interest among graduate students and University administrators in growing support for graduate students financially,” he said. “But there are a lot of challenges.”

While many graduate students receive tuition support and stipends through assistantship and fellowship programs, McNally said those funds don’t always cover the entire cost of attending school. Many students still pay some tuition and fees with their own money, he said.

Miller said that in the speech, language and hearing sciences department, there’s rarely opportunity for master’s students to earn money in an assistantship program.

Though there are some opportunities to get a part-time research assistantship, she said, those positions don’t completely cover tuition, fees or living costs.

“It’s just the nature of the beast,” Miller said. “We bear the brunt of both tuition and living expenses with little financial assistance from the University.”

Overall, Waters said, the University should increase financial assistance to graduate students to show they are a “valuable resource” to the institution.

“I don’t think if you look at how much we get paid right now that you can actually see that we’re valued members of the community,” she said.