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jnf

Funding offer

Question

Is it common for a PhD program to offer a funded position but to expressly state that, while they have a goal for grad students to have funding for every year they are in the program, the funding offer is only guaranteed for the first year? 

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Yes. Because no one can predict what will happen in the future, few schools will guarantee / 100% promise there will be funding for every year. But schools should promise funding where available. The common phrase is something like "you will be funded for the entirety of your degree [or up to 5 years or whatever] subject to satisfactory progress and availability of funds."

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8 hours ago, jnf said:

^Thanks!   I wish the language in the offer was as clearly stated as the common phrase you quote, however it is similar.  The offer states that funding for future years is "competitive"  and depends on academic progress and keeping a good standing in the program, but that they make every effort to fund students for their entire graduate education. 

In that case, I would feel confident about it. It would be a good idea to ask about this when you visit or if you have a chance to ask professors and students in the program. The way I would phrase the question would be something like to quote or paraphrase the offer wording and ask how often is it that someone is unfunded. If they say it never happens, then it's basically guaranteed! In most programs with language like what I wrote or what you wrote here, if you don't get funding, it means that they are kicking you out too due to lack of progress/failure to keep good standing. Programs that intend to fully fund their students will not say someone is not good enough for funding but good enough to stay, except in some rare/extreme cases.

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^Thanks!   I wish the language in the offer was as clearly stated as the common phrase you quote, however it is similar.  The offer states that funding for future years is "competitive"  and depends on academic progress and keeping a good standing in the program, but that they make every effort to fund students for their entire graduate education. 

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10 hours ago, TakeruK said:

The common phrase is something like "you will be funded for the entirety of your degree [or up to 5 years or whatever] subject to satisfactory progress and availability of funds."

'Availability of funds' would make me worry a bit. One could ask about this when visiting but the contract you sign containing this wording will be binding. I wonder if anyone has ever been successful asking for his or her contract to be amended from 'availability of funding' to 'guaranteed funding'?

No one can predict the future but guaranteed funding for the duration of a program is always a preferable choice.

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3 hours ago, Black Beauty said:

'Availability of funds' would make me worry a bit. One could ask about this when visiting but the contract you sign containing this wording will be binding. I wonder if anyone has ever been successful asking for his or her contract to be amended from 'availability of funding' to 'guaranteed funding'?

No one can predict the future but guaranteed funding for the duration of a program is always a preferable choice.

As I wrote above, very few schools will do this. If they do, if the department gets shut down, or if all of the profs lose their grants, then will they still have to pay you? I think the wording is to avoid that scenario. On that note, I also do not think it's useful to get it amended from "availability of funding" to "guaranteed funding" because the guarantee is worthless if they run out of funds to pay you with! If the department loses all its money, a guarantee won't mean anything. 

I think "availability of funds" plus some wording like jnf has about "intends to fund every student" plus anecdotes from students and faculty in the department that every student in the past 10 years have been fully funded would be enough for me, personally. You want to confirm that the department intends to pay you and has a plan to do so, but you can't insure against catastrophic changes. For things a department going under, you have to enter the PhD program on a "shared risk" basis. 

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