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Can anyone correct me on any of these programs I've found are NOT funded?


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Hey all, I've talked to a few of you about the difficulty I'm having determining if programs are indeed funded or not. I've heard from several people that almost every program within the top 30-50 is funded but I'm finding this to not be at all true, at least as stated on program websites and handbooks. I know this might be different in practice (i.e. they aren't allowed to explicitly say on their website that they can guarantee students funding for 5-6 years but they nonetheless do); however, I've also been advised to not apply to programs that don't guarantee full funding for 5-6 years.

If anyone is feeling up to it, please feel free to look over the below list of programs that do not guarantee funding and correct me if you see anything that seems wrong (and it would be great if you could point me to the source that suggests otherwise):

  • Oregon (TAships available in later years but not to first years. Nothing is guaranteed.)
  • University of Washington (same as Oregon)
  • Yale (seems funded in practice but funding for dissertating years is not guaranteed)
  • Brandeis (unclear -- says all PhD students are offered remission/fellowship but also says all graduate students should expect to cover some portion of their tuition)
  • Michigan State (awards available on a competitive basis)
  • University of Iowa (awards available on a competitive basis)
  • UC Davis (awards available on a competitive basis)
  • UC Santa Barbara (awards available on a competitive basis)
  • Texas A&M (all students receive some funding but it does not cover the full cost of tuition)
  • Vanderbilt (unclear -- suggests all students receive funding for 5 years but also says the tuition scholarship may only cover part of the cost of tuition)
  • UC Irvine ("committed" to providing financial support to students but nothing is guaranteed.)
  • SUNY Buffalo (when offered, fellowships last for 5 years, but they are awarded competitively based on merit)
  • Arizona State (admits a massive cohort and funds 1/3 of it)
  • UNC Chapel Hill (TAships and incoming-student RAships available on a competitive basis)
  • UConn (attempts to provide funding but does not guarantee it)
  • University of Tennessee Knoxville (has a list of TAships & fellowships available but says nothing about who these are offered to)
  • UC San Diego (not guaranteed to all students and do not cover full tuition/fees)
  • Northwestern (funding offered on a competitive basis and external funding applications are encouraged)
  • Indiana Bloomington (only discusses first-year funding and suggests that this funding is not offered to everyone)
  • Ohio State (the department "attempts" to provide students with funding; not full and not guaranteed)
  • Nebraska Lincoln (students are eligible for up to 6 years of funding but it is not guaranteed)
  • UMass Amherst (TAships available through separate application; nothing is guaranteed)
  • Purdue (funding options are listed but not guaranteed; nothing is stated about who receives them and how)
  • Utah (nothing is stated about funding except a list of some TAships and fellowships they might offer)
  • Florida State (same as Utah)
  • Northeastern (unclear -- it seems like they might offer 5 years of funding but nothing is guaranteed. Students are awarded funding "at the recommendation of the department")
  • University of Florida (only provides 4 years of funding)
  • University of Kansas (no information provided about funding)
  • University of Missouri ("most" students are offered support)
  • University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (TAships are for 5 years when offered but they are not offered to everyone)
  • Louisiana State Baton Rouge (no information about funding provided)
  • Miami University ("nearly all" students are funded)

If a program isn't on this list I've either found it to be fully funded or it doesn't meet my minimal location preference (no big cities). With these programs subtracted from my list, I'm left with a list of 29 total funded programs to work with. It sounds like a great number, but not when you consider that I have not narrowed down at all based on fit/faculty yet (even at the most basic level) and most of them are not in places where I'd want to live. Also, a good number of those that guarantee funding are Ivies/top 20 programs and I'd like to have more range than that.

Thank you in advance for any information you contribute!

Edit: I should add that I began with the US News list of the top 60-70 programs, so I also haven't included in my list most programs that are ranked after about 70 on there. I don't plan on using the rankings for any further narrowing-down but it seemed like the best way to gather a gigantic starter list.

Second edit: For Literature, FYI, not Rhet/Comp.

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I can only speak about my own program, Ohio State. As of right now, funding is effectively guaranteed (four years for those with an external MA, five years for those without one). The stipend isn't great (my ABD stipend sits right at 18.5K), but is considered "full" by the standards of English graduate programs. The ambiguous language on the website is, I think, there as a legal safeguard in the event of draconian budget cuts or a student making zero progress toward degree completion.  I've never heard of a new student getting a cut-rate or partial package from our department. 

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Thanks, @Ramus! I was wondering about this one because an alumn of OSU at my undergrad was always raving about Ohio State's "fully-funded program."

If Ohio ends up being one of the programs I'm looking at, I wonder what the funding situation might be like for me. I'll be coming in with an external British MA which is just one year of coursework, so I wonder if they would acknowledge that or not. I guess that's the kind of thing I would have to discuss with them upon possible acceptance.

Do you find that the $18.5k is enough for you? It looks like COL in Columbus is relatively low.

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39 minutes ago, indecisivepoet said:

Do you find that the $18.5k is enough for you? It looks like COL in Columbus is relatively low.

Cost-of-living in Columbus is very reasonable and it's relatively easy to find housing within the budget. Personally, I'm a bit spoiled because my wife works a 'real' full-time job, so we've never had problems making ends meet with my stipend. It's obviously more difficult for those without a second income, but I gather that the majority of my peers get by okay without loans or other forms of support. 

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Miami University in Ohio funds all admitted students in their programs (barring low-resident MFA students).

But all full-time, resident graduate students on the Oxford campus are admitted with an assistantship (and sometimes a fellowship, if the graduate school grants them one). If the website doesn't say this, then I will contact our webmaster and let them know, because this is one of our selling points, I'd say, because we fund all admitted MA, resident MFA, and PhD students. And we have various funding sources (teaching, assistant director of composition, assistant director of one of our writing centers, assistant director for our WAC programs, this year assistant director to Ohio Writing Project, etc). 

And I'm not at Purdue but was admitted there, and I know that at least all comp/rhet students are admitted with funding. They only admit those they can fund. 

Edited by klader
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1 hour ago, Warelin said:

Kansas: so when a website says like, for example, Kansas' does, something like "A GTA appointment includes ten semesters of stipend/remission", should I take that to mean the program guarantees funding? I guess I was looking for that type of language specifically, so when it just explains what the GTA is, I'm left wondering whether everyone gets one or not.

Brandeis: a different situation -- says "most" of our students. Should I take language like this to mean guaranteed funding as well? I think there were a few others on my list that also said most/nearly all.

Same thing going on for Michigan State -- again, to me just looks like a list of what might be offered with no language about who it's offered to.

The language that threw me off on Vanderbilt's website was "University Tuition Scholarships are service-free awards that pay all or part of tuition costs." And it looks like this is the only funding first year students can receive, right?

I'm just so confused by all this language that makes it seem like there is ample funding but doesn't explicitly say so. I don't see a difference between Michigan State's laundry list of what's offered and, for example, UC Davis' log of the fellowships and assistantships they offer; both seem not guaranteed to me.

Regarding location: Seattle I'd be willing to live in or outside of just because I'd love to live in Washington and to live so close to the national parks around there. San Diego similar situation, and I guess I decided Boston was one of those "I really don't want to live there but my options are limited" places. Columbus and Nashville I didn't realize were that big and will probably go (I wasn't too interested in OSU or the south anyway).

Thanks a ton as always. Let me know if there are others on the list that catch your eye (I was particularly disappointed by Oregon, Washington, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UNC, San Diego, Nebraska, Amherst, and Utah..off the top of my head I know we've discussed Washington's strange funding situation before).

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1 hour ago, klader said:

Miami University in Ohio funds all admitted students in their programs (barring low-resident MFA students).

But all full-time, resident graduate students on the Oxford campus are admitted with an assistantship (and sometimes a fellowship, if the graduate school grants them one). If the website doesn't say this, then I will contact our webmaster and let them know, because this is one of our selling points, I'd say, because we fund all admitted MA, resident MFA, and PhD students. And we have various funding sources (teaching, assistant director of composition, assistant director of one of our writing centers, assistant director for our WAC programs, this year assistant director to Ohio Writing Project, etc). 

And I'm not at Purdue but was admitted there, and I know that at least all comp/rhet students are admitted with funding. They only admit those they can fund. 

Thanks so much for the info. Here's what I found on Miami U: https://miamioh.edu/cas/academics/departments/english/admission/graduate-admission/graduate-funding/index.html

The "nearly all" language implies that there is ample funding but also scares me off a little bit. It may be a case of bureaucratic inability to guarantee funding on the website, like what @Ramus suggested about OSU?

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@indecisivepoet: I think I've had the following explained to me regarding some funding. Many years ago, some students were given 100 percent guaranteed funding. If they transferred, that funding went with them.  They got to keep the previous college's stipend as well as their new college's stipend.As a result, most colleges are very careful of how they word things and have things such as annual reviews to help offset and prevent this from happening. 

Unfortunately, some colleges have horrible ways of explaining their funding. The colleges I listed above are ones I've had conversations with the DGS because I had similar concerns. I can't speak for the majority of your list.

If you search the school's name on this board, you might come up with funding packages that people were offered in the recent past. I know certain colleges have offered non-renewable 3 year packages, instead of their typical 5/6.

State School stipends can be unfortunately impacted by how much that school puts into education for the year.  Wisconsin lost their tenure-system in 2016 which resulted in a lot of tenured professors losing their tenure and going elsewhere. Politics can have a huge impact on the finances of a college.

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@indecisivepoet I've communicated with the Director of Graduate Studies at Oregon and she said that Oregon offers full funding packages to all PhD students assuming they maintain normal progress toward degree. I want to say that their funding packages are more than most bigger universities too. Hope this helps!

Edited by CatBowl
clarity
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3 hours ago, indecisivepoet said:

 

  • SUNY Buffalo (when offered, fellowships last for 5 years, but they are awarded competitively based on merit)

I was admitted to Buffalo this past season. It is not competitive or merit-based funding - everyone gets a livable stipend for 5 years, although there are "top offs" offered by the university at-large. And, IIRC, there are actually 6 years of funding - like other programs, of course, the 6th year is discussed in vague language due to technicalities, but as it has been noted, that's not unusual for universities to do. 

If Buffalo is of interest to you, feel free to PM me and I can go look at my offer and tell you the details I received. Alternatively, you could email the DGS - Buffalo's website is on the more vague side of things, but the DGS was very responsive to my Qs and would, I imagine, be happy to discuss funding details with a prospective student.

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2 hours ago, CatBowl said:

@indecisivepoet I've communicated with the Director of Graduate Studies at Oregon and she said that Oregon offers full funding packages to all PhD students assuming they maintain normal progress toward degree. I want to say that their funding packages are more than most bigger universities too. Hope this helps!

Thank you so much! You have no idea how happy this has made me. But... why can't they say this on their website!? It is so strange to me that these programs are not advertising these major selling points.

But then again, given what @Warelin has mentioned above, perhaps it is in their best interests not to. @Warelin: thanks for the tip on searching the program's name in the board and seeing what others have been offered. I think at this point I can narrow this list down to a number that's more workable so that I can either do that, email the respective DGSs, or ask students directly if they've received funding.

@a_sort_of_fractious_angel The website's wording is so strange: "All PhD applicants for full-time study are automatically considered for departmental financial support. These awards are based on academic merit, not financial need." If you know the program is fully-funded, I guess the latter statement is actually meant to be reassuring, telling prospective applicants that they'll be offered funding if they get into the program regardless of their income level. But to someone who doesn't know that, it makes it sound competitive and "considered for funding" definitely makes it sound competitive. Anyway, I'm definitely taking your word for it that it's funded. But thank you for the offer! I'm not sure yet whether Buffalo will be on my "finalists" list.

Edited by indecisivepoet
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6 minutes ago, indecisivepoet said:

Do you all think it's a good idea to only drop the programs that very explicitly say funding is only offered to some students and is definitely competitive?

I think that's a good way to narrow down your list so you can get a better understanding of the dynamics in departments. :)

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Chiming in re: Oregon. I live in Eugene and have friends in the program. 5 years of funding are guaranteed, with amazing health benefits. Full tuition remission with stipends around 13/14k. Obviously, it could be different this year, but I doubt it. This has been their package for awhile. Good luck!

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7 hours ago, indecisivepoet said:

Thanks so much for the info. Here's what I found on Miami U: https://miamioh.edu/cas/academics/departments/english/admission/graduate-admission/graduate-funding/index.html

The "nearly all" language implies that there is ample funding but also scares me off a little bit. It may be a case of bureaucratic inability to guarantee funding on the website, like what @Ramus suggested about OSU?

Oh, what that means (from my reading and understanding of the program) is that most graduate students teach but some do administrative assistantships ("nearly all are awarded teaching assistantships" and "other assistantships are available"; not as clear as they could be).

Truly, all of us have funding-- some of us just do different things to receive that funding (I have an administrative assistantship in a writing center, for example, which is paid for by the College of Arts of Sciences, I think). They will never NOT fund someone they admit. 

But I see how it could be read that only "nearly all" get funding in general! They may purposely have some vague language in there, but I can assure you that if you are admitted, you are funded. They admit people based on how many TA lines the College gives them. 

Edited by klader
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6 hours ago, indecisivepoet said:

@a_sort_of_fractious_angel The website's wording is so strange: "All PhD applicants for full-time study are automatically considered for departmental financial support. These awards are based on academic merit, not financial need." If you know the program is fully-funded, I guess the latter statement is actually meant to be reassuring, telling prospective applicants that they'll be offered funding if they get into the program regardless of their income level. But to someone who doesn't know that, it makes it sound competitive and "considered for funding" definitely makes it sound competitive. Anyway, I'm definitely taking your word for it that it's funded. But thank you for the offer! I'm not sure yet whether Buffalo will be on my "finalists" list.

No problem - it's likely legal or technical language that is beyond my ability to explain (and it's definitely hard to parse) but, rest assured, it is a fully funded program.

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So after sifting through the ones with language that seems to probably indicate most or all students are funded (and removing some more based on location), I'm left with:

  • UC Davis (competitive, especially for out-of-staters)
  • Northwestern (looks to be competitive)
  • UC San Diego (unclear)
  • Florida State (unclear, seems like it is probably not funded)

I'll probably email the respective DGSs but thought I'd leave the list here too in case anyone else has insider info.

Edited by indecisivepoet
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10 hours ago, indecisivepoet said:

Got it, @klader and @a_sort_of_fractious_angel. I think I'm starting to crack this terrible phrasing...

Haha, I understand, and it is good to get this all sorted now!

One thing occurred to me this morning re: phrasing (apologies if someone else has already mentioned it). The academic merit/other vague turns of phrase about academic stuff is sometimes code for "you need to pass." I.e., the university will not be funding you if you're flunking out or failing to meet milestones in an acceptable amount of time.

Seems obvious that all that is required for remaining funded, but I can understand why they need to gesture toward that (however vaguely) on the web pages. 

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On 7/13/2018 at 8:02 AM, indecisivepoet said:

 

  • Yale (seems funded in practice but funding for dissertating years is not guaranteed)

Yale's fully funded -- the year I applied (this is a while ago, now; I'll be starting my fourth year -- not at Yale -- in the fall) they offered us guaranteed six-year packages, and from what I've heard they've only sweetened the pot since then.

Your qualifier of "seems funded in practice but funding for dissertating years is not guaranteed" deserves some comment, though, as a criterion for determining if a school is "fully funded," and what "fully funded" even really means. Even programs that guarantee 5 or 6 years of "full" funding (meaning full tuition waiver and livable stipend/wage) aren't, in a certain sense, fully funded, especially given the job market. Very, very few graduate students will really complete a (good) dissertation in five years, and even if they do, it won't be completed in time to go on the market in their fifth year with a completed diss in hand; very few will have jobs after having gone on the market in their sixth year. You will almost certainly need funding (or employment) of some sort beyond a fifth year, and probably beyond a sixth. Programs have all sorts of ways of supporting their students in that period between when the dissertation is nearing completion and when the candidate either succeeds on the academic job market or does something else -- either through teaching, competitive fellowships, institution-specific postdocs for once you've graduated, or delaying filing the dissertation itself. Also: many programs will have institutional clocks that determine funding timeframes; few departments will give you money in your thirteenth year of dissertating (it does happen). That range of possibilities is what language like "not guaranteed" is designed to capture.

In short: your professors are absolutely right to tell you not to even consider programs without five or six years of guaranteed funding, and you shouldn't think that language about funding for dissertation years not being guaranteed necessarily means that a given program doesn't have that guaranteed five or six years of funding. But most importantly (and I cannot stress this enough): when looking at programs, especially after the acceptance stage, ask the graduate advisor, the administrator in charge of placement, and (most especially) current advanced students about time to completion, normative time, and support for students beyond the last year of their guaranteed funding.

Edited by unræd
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On 7/15/2018 at 5:36 PM, unræd said:

Very, very few graduate students will really complete a (good) dissertation in five years, and even if they do, it won't be completed in time to go on the market in their fifth year with a completed diss in hand; very few will have jobs after having gone on the market in their sixth year. You will almost certainly need funding (or employment) of some sort beyond a fifth year, and probably beyond a sixth. Programs have all sorts of ways of supporting their students in that period between when the dissertation is nearing completion and when the candidate either succeeds on the academic job market or does something else -- either through teaching, competitive fellowships, institution-specific postdocs for once you've graduated, or delaying filing the dissertation itself. Also: many programs will have institutional clocks that determine funding timeframes; few departments will give you money in your thirteenth year of dissertating (it does happen). That range of possibilities is what language like "not guaranteed" is designed to capture.

Just want to chime in here and say that this seems very discipline-specific (if we're to recognizing that Composition and Rhetoric is a discipline distinct from literature/general English studies). I know a lot of people in my comp/rhet program and other comp/rhet programs who finish in 4 or 5 years, with most taking a fifth year due to extensive person-based research. And I know scholars in the field who also finished in 4.

 I was told by my advisor, actually, that she's confident I can finish in 4 (and go on the job market my 4th year) if I stay focused and get a significant chuck of stuff written the end of my third year/the summer before my fourth year. That's what some friends of mine at other programs are doing, too-- writing, writing, writing this summer after they collected data last year, and are going on the job market in the fall. 

I think this varies a lot on the culture of the program, and the types of projects people do, and so on. 

ETA: I know three people from my program finished their PhDs in 4 years in the past 5 years and won major national dissertation awards, so they finished and finished it extremely well. Of course not EVERYONE can do this, I know, and certainly not everyone in my program can crank it out in 4 years and win awards, but if it's part of the culture, then it really does change your mindset about what you can accomplish and when you can finish. 

Edited by klader
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1 hour ago, klader said:

Just want to chime in here and say that this seems very discipline-specific (if we're to recognizing that Composition and Rhetoric is a discipline distinct from literature/general English studies). I know a lot of people in my comp/rhet program and other comp/rhet programs who finish in 4 or 5 years, with most taking a fifth year due to extensive person-based research. And I know scholars in the field who also finished in 4.

 I was told by my advisor, actually, that she's confident I can finish in 4 (and go on the job market my 4th year) if I stay focused and get a significant chuck of stuff written the end of my third year/the summer before my fourth year. That's what some friends of mine at other programs are doing, too-- writing, writing, writing this summer after they collected data last year, and are going on the job market in the fall. 

I think this varies a lot on the culture of the program, and the types of projects people do, and so on. 

ETA: I know three people from my program finished their PhDs in 4 years in the past 5 years and won major national dissertation awards, so they finished and finished it extremely well. Of course not EVERYONE can do this, I know, and certainly not everyone in my program can crank it out in 4 years and win awards, but if it's part of the culture, then it really does change your mindset about what you can accomplish and when you can finish. 

Sure, and from the lit perspective (which is what op's applying for), I do know people (relatively few, at a range of programs) who've finished in five, and even in four (and placed into TT jobs at Ivies, so it's not like they were bad projects). But it's still not at all normal for the field, even as it's becoming more and more common as universities try to push people out faster and faster.

Even if you do finish in five, though, the job market being what it is -- and again, this is a (slight) difference between lit and rhetcomp -- means that going to a program and not worrying about funding past a fifth year because you're sure you'll finish your dissertation in time is extremely risky. Even if your dissertation is done when your funding runs out, you'll still need a job, which is -- again, I'm talking lit -- precious hard to come by.

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6 minutes ago, unræd said:

Sure, and from the lit perspective (which is what op's applying for), I do know people (relatively few, at a range of programs) who've finished in five, and even in four (and placed into TT jobs at Ivies, so it's not like they were bad projects). But it's still not at all normal for the field, even as it's becoming more and more common as universities try to push people out faster and faster.

Even if you do finish in five, though, the job market being what it is -- and again, this is a (slight) difference between lit and rhetcomp -- means that going to a program and not worrying about funding past a fifth year because you're sure you'll finish your dissertation in time is extremely risky. Even if your dissertation is done when your funding runs out, you'll still need a job, which is -- again, I'm talking lit -- precious hard to come by.

Yes, all good things to take into consideration! For sure. I just thought I'd chime in for future applicants who may stumble upon this thread. I think a really good thing to do is ask current students in programs you are considering about how long people have taken to graduate, and what the culture is like, as well placement rate as such. 

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