Graduate School to provide funding for students in their sixth year

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Graduate School common room

Beginning in the 2015-2016 academic year, the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences will provide funding for eligible Ph.D. students in the humanities and social sciences who need a sixth year to finish their work, Dean Lynn Cooley announced.

Yale is the first school to offer this guarantee across the board to all humanities and social science students.

“I am pleased to be able to offer this extraordinary support to both current students and those we will admit in the coming months,” Cooley said. “This will enable students to pursue their doctoral research and gain valuable teaching experience without shortchanging either goal.”

The sixth year of support will be at the level of the standard departmental stipend for the nine-month academic year and will take the form of guaranteed teaching positions or other assignments appropriate to the students’ professional goals. Eligibility for this funding will be determined in the spring, when programs will identify those fifth-year students who are on track to complete their dissertations by May of the following year.

“We expect most students in need of a sixth year will be eligible for this newly guaranteed funding,” the Dean said.

“This important enhancement is the result of months of effort by a working group of faculty and administrators charged with improving the teaching fellow experience for graduate students,” added Cooley. “I am particularly grateful to the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) for their unflagging collaboration on this issue. Without their help, we would not have been able to realize this improvement at present.”

“The GSA is extremely excited to have worked with the Graduate School to make sixth-year funding possible,” says GSA chair Joori Park, a graduate student in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. “It is the culmination of nearly five years of advocacy, collaboration, and communication. Graduate students informed their GSA representatives that securing sixth-year funding was extremely stressful, due to the uncertainty of the process and the typical timeline.” The GSA shared this concern with the Dean’s Office, and they worked on this together. She notes.

“The GSA had marked this as a major priority among graduate students for some time,” said former GSA chair Brian Dunican. “We were very pleased to work, first with Dean Pollard and then with Dean Cooley, who were absolutely integral to realizing this expansion of funding in two divisions of the Graduate School.”

According to Cooley, “Many of our graduate programs in the humanities and social sciences typically take up to six years to complete, and, until now, our funding package covered only five years. We strongly encourage students to try to finish in five years, but we know from long experience that some programs take slightly longer, so we are delighted to be able to help students in this way.”           

The funding will come with additional professional experience for students who are about to begin their careers.

“We have learned from our students in the humanities and social sciences, in particular, that the increasingly competitive job market favors students who have had more teaching experience than we have been able to provide in the past,” the Dean said. “Our students have often been able to find teaching fellow positions in their sixth year of study, but uncertainty about placement has caused anxiety and delay, and, in some cases, no opportunities were forthcoming. The sixth year of guaranteed funding will enable eligible students to develop teaching portfolios of more depth and to plan ahead for their sixth year with more certainty.”

In some cases, students will be offered non-teaching positions relevant to their interests and expertise, such as assistantships in one of Yale’s collections, in digital humanities, or in the teaching of writing or other skills.

Doctoral students in the sciences and engineering will continue to be funded according to their programmatic financial aid packages, normally for the number of years it takes to complete their degrees. The minimum annual stipend for Ph.D. students this year is $28,400. In addition, students receive tuition waivers, free comprehensive health care, career guidance, and many other services.

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