The follow post was written by oudenos as part of our continuing series on graduate education.
Fall is approaching and applications to Humanities and Religious Studies PhD programs become due as early as the first week of December. Last year FPR posted a series of discussions concerning PhD students’ experiences in various programs at various institutions. This post is an attempt to revisit and revive those discussions for the sake of this year’s crop of applicants. Specifically, I want to talk about the topic of funding—an issue inescapable to every aspiring grad student.
Some schools are very generous with funding packages, others are not and the reasons for this vary. Prestigious research schools which are also private institutions like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, Stanford, and Notre Dame provide excellent funding for their admitted students because they are schools with well established and large grad programs, extensive endowments, and yearly budgets which not tied to the vicissitudes of state economies. With admission to such schools you are nearly guaranteed a full tuition waiver, health insurance (usually basics plans), stipends ranging from 16-25K per annum, and extra money for summer research (think travel, language training, and conference attendance). Usually such offers are for 4-5 years with the prospect of further funding once a student reaches the candidate level.
Depending upon the school, some stipend offers also come with work stipulations like TA-ships, instructorships, or research assistantships while other offers are without strings. Flagship state schools like Virginia, Michigan, Indiana, Texas, UNC, Colorado, Illinois, Wisconsin, etc., usually offer similar funding packages to admitted students in order to remain competitive with the wealthy private institutions. However, these schools generally offer stipends in the range of 12-20K per annum and they are more commonly attached to teaching/TA/research responsibilities. Also, their yearly cohorts tend to fluctuate in size based upon the money relegated by the respective state to its universities. Smaller private, prestigious schools like Emory, Rice, or Johns Hopkins tend to offer financial packages which exceed state schools and often compete with and sometimes exceed the larger private schools though their yearly cohorts are significantly smaller and sometimes no offers are made for an application cycle. Then there are schools like Claremont, Graduate Theological Union, or Catholic University which regularly admit PhD students but offer them only a small percentage of tuition reimbursement (25-50%) with no stipend or health insurance. To this same category (at least for US citizens) belong the super prestigious British universities (Oxford and Cambridge) and slightly less prestigious universities (Exeter, St. Andrews, etc.) which gladly accept American applicants but nearly never provide any substantial funding.
What to do? What to do? These choices are, of course, compounded by the necessities of families, marriages, locations, job prospects, careers of spouses or significant others, costs of living, and consummations and destructions of life dreams.
So, let’s hear your personal stories, your quandaries, your triumphant admissions, your self-esteem and dream shattering rejections, and most importantly, your useful advice for up and coming scholars in Humanities and Religious Studies (or whatever other field in which the readership of FPR is engaged).