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Are the UC's known for low Stipend offers ?


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I was accepted into an engineering PhD program at one of the UC's in southern California with a 9 month stipend offer of ~$1,800/month.  Of course, during this first year you try and match up with a professor that will offer funding for the summer and following years.  This amount is a good $400-500/month less than other public universities that have also made offers.  The department indicates they pay about the same stipend amounts for everyone so they do not adjust or supplement their funding offers. 

 

With the high housing and other cost of living I was really surprised that this UC is not more competitive especially if they want to attract and really work to improve the status of their program (which they say they want to do but it is starting to sound like lip service)  Their program is actually ranked lower (mid-tier) than all the others with the better offers.

 

I hope this is not a sign that the department is not that well funded and maybe it would be a mistake to go there.  I haven't made a decision yet but wondered if this is common at the UC's and has anyone else noticed this?  

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I was accepted into an engineering PhD program

I hope this is not a sign that the department is not that well funded and maybe it would be a mistake to go there. I haven't made a decision yet but wondered if this is common at the UC's and has anyone else noticed this?

California - and by extension their schools - is broke, bud. That said, if you thought you were going to live like a king on a TA stipend.... Get some roommates, it's doable

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$21600 is a fine salary for going to school

Not sure about this one in socal. With this amount of money, you'll definitely need to stay in graduate housing in order to save up money.

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For the engineering and physical sciences, yes, the UC's definitely pay a much lower stipend amount. As guttata said, it's mostly because they don't have the money to pay higher stipends. But it's not just the UC's that pay this low -- my offer from U Washington (Seattle) was also really low -- $18,000 for 12 months. In the end, I got rejected from all the UC's I applied to, so I didn't have an actual number for me to compare to, but from talking to other successful applicants, the UC funding is about what you said too, give or take a few thousand a year.

 

The stipend from Caltech -- a private school in southern California (i.e. similar cost of living) is significantly different! I would guesstimate the cost of living down here, for a single student, sharing a 2 bedroom place to be about $25000 per year. Our stipend is about $29,000 per year. But I think private schools have more resources to use to pay their students.

 

However, I think the most important question to ask regarding stipend is whether or not it is enough for you to live the life you want and not worry about paying rent or buying food. From experience, I know that stressing about money is very detrimental to both your quality of life and quality of your work! So I wouldn't want to live in SoCal without a stipend of at least $25k/year. 

 

If that stipend is enough for you to live and not worry, then you could wonder whether or not the low stipend = a sign that the department is not well funded. I don't think the low offer you got from your UC school means anything more than pretty much all public California schools/programs are not well funded. I would think that it's definitely NOT the case that the department could afford to pay their grad students more but purposely choose not to. Thus, I wouldn't read anything more into the stipend value other than that science funding is sucky in a lot of places.

 

Finally, I think there are two schools of thought regarding grad student stipend. If you think of grad school as mostly schooling, that is, an extension of undergrad, then being paid to go to school is pretty awesome! So, yes, something like $21,600 is a fine salary for going to school. But I would think that grad school is more than just school. It's the entry level position for a career (in research/teaching/industry/whatever). I would say that over the course of the entire degree, you will probably spend about 40 hours per week doing "actual research work" -- this number will be lower in the beginning because of courses but higher in later years when you are just doing your dissertation work. I would value the time of a science graduate student (based on skills and experience) to be worth about $15/hour on average. So, assuming a 50 week work-year and 40 hours of work per year, I would say the appropriate stipend that a science grad student should expect is about $30,000 per year. On websites like PhysicsGRE.com, applicant post their results and usually their stipend packages in their profiles and on average, across the country/cost of living, I would say most science PhD programs have funding packages in the $25k to $30k per year range.

 

So, yes, the UC stipend is lower than the typical values that you might get from different schools! But I don't think it's intentionally low because they don't value graduate students, it's the best they can do probably. So if it's enough for you and the fit is good, I wouldn't worry too much about the stipend level.

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I got offered around $2150 per month from UCSD. Does anyone have a clue how much is that after paying the taxes? Don't want the exact numbers, rather just a feeling, a rough estimate.

 

 

Edit: international student, if that makes a difference.

Edited by froup
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Not sure about this one in socal. With this amount of money, you'll definitely need to stay in graduate housing in order to save up money.

 

Ok you don't go to graduate school to build up your investment portfolio. You can definitely live fine on 21600 as a single person in southern california. There are people living on much less.

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@Billyboy is 1800/month before or after tax? I got around 2150/month before tax -- same as froup above. A bit disappointed as it's much less than what the other public universities (with higher "rankings") offer, with one exception. Purdue offered even less (about half my stipend at another place with a slightly higher cost of living).

 

I hope 2150/month before tax is enough to live comfortably for a single, since I'm probably going to socal anyway based on the research fit.

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I certainly have no plans on living like a king and expect to have a roommate to share rental expense - I thought anyone here would know that but apparently not...

 

The $1,800 amount is before any taxes.  One should probably figure around 11-13% for income taxes (with the first year being less assuming you don't have a full years income.) 

 

Also in California you will pay another 7.5% off the top that is required by the state for your savings.  (This money is a savings plan and can later be rolled into an IRA after you leave your program but will not be available for your living expenses) 

 

If this link will work below you will see that this appears to be an issue that has developed in the last few years and that California is becoming known for not being competitive with stipends. 

 

http://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/CAGSSGradCompetitivenessPaper_072012.pdf

 

(If the link doesn't work google:  task force on competitiveness graduate support  )

 

You may also want to be alert to the wording in your offer letters.  Other offers have mentioned that the stipend amounts are expected to increase in future years whereas the UC is silent in this regards.

 

Also of interest from the report above is that TA pay is the same system wide based on a collective bargaining agreement whereas the RA pay is determined at the local level.  This may explain why TA and RA pay is different at the UC's with RA often being lower.

 

All of this isn't to say to go to a UC, but go informed with this information and your eyes open, as the monthly difference over 48+ months starts to add up and it is disappointing to see that this is known yet remains unaddressed, perhaps hoping the students really won't mind.  (They can always take on debt or get bunked beds as needed right?)  

Edited by Billyboy
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Ok you don't go to graduate school to build up your investment portfolio. You can definitely live fine on 21600 as a single person in southern california. There are people living on much less.

 

You don't go to grad school to save up a ton of money, but it's not unreasonable for schools to pay grad students enough so that they can live a modest lifestyle and save up money. After all, we are skilled people, and we probably could make a lot more money than $25k-$30k/year instead of going to grad school. Getting a PhD isn't a labour of love and graduate students should not be expected to accept poor living conditions in order to learn. Graduate school is a job!

 

Also, I don't think saying that there are other people living on much less is a valid argument. I'm not saying it's impossible to survive at what is basically below the poverty line. But why should graduate students live in poverty? In addition, saying that the stipend could be even lower is equivalent of arguing, for example, that we shouldn't complain about e.g. gender inequality in the North American workforce because it's so much worse in <insert a country of your choosing here>. 

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Graduate school is unlike any other job in that the outcome of some years of experience significantly increases your lifetime earning potential. Whereas I agree that graduate students are too often treated as an infinite source of free labour, the sorts of stipends on which one could build a nest egg are limited - in fact many people pay for graduate school! As you know in Canada, $21k + tuition remission is extremely rare, yet there are somehow thousands of graduate students still. I would love a $30 000 stipend but it's not going to happen, and a $21 600 + tuition remission, in my opinion, is a generous offer. My latter comment was indeed valid because the poster was exclaiming that his stipend is not enough to live on in California, which is not the case.

Edited by selecttext
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$1800 a month for 9 months before tax, let's assume this would be, in average, $1350 a month for 12 months. Let's also assume that there is zero tax in CA, then you'll just get the 100% of $1350 a month.

 

Sure you can live in CA with that amount of money. The point though, like TakeruK mentioned, is to be as productive as a researcher and student while not significantly lower your quality of life. Everyone has different standard, and surely you can spent $100 on a sleeping bag and sleep in the lab every night. Walk over to the gym for a shower, use the restrooms in the lab building and take care of your other routines. You can totally survive with this kinda lifestyle, it's just not a lifestyle for me though. I can do this for a week or even a month. But for 5 years? I'm not sure about that. I'm not sure if I'll be happy without living in a reasonable yet comfortable lifestyle.

 

I lived in neighborhoods near UCLA and adjacent to UCSD for the past 6 years. Finding a 1 bedroom apartments near those area for $1K or less is almost a miracle (not impossible). If you value private / own space a lot, then you can expect to pay ~$1200 USD a month for a 1 bd apartment, near these 2 campuses (walking distance / school city shuttles distances). You can obviously find something cheaper, but commute becomes your other consideration -- whether it is a problem of time or gas.

 

Hence, saving money in that amount of stipend is doable if one lives on-campus graduate housing, or share apartment with a couple others. But still, you are looking at spending at least $400 +/- 50 USD a month for housing. Assuming you spend $5 a day for food, you basically spend $550 a month, and still managed to save $800 a month under the aforementioned assumptions. Is it worth it? I don't know about you, but not me. Which is why I think I'm blessed when I have +20K stipend outside of CA, since my rent for a 1 br is almost 1/3 of what I would have paid living in socal. Now that is "fine".

 

TLDR-- sure you can "live fine on 21600 as a single person in southern california". But how do you define "fine"? That's the question.

Edited by aberrant
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$1800 a month for 9 months before tax, let's assume this would be, in average, $1350 a month for 12 months.

 

Would it be reasonable to hope for some income from the summer internships? Alternatively, if you're staying to work with your supervisor, is there any hope to get an additional RA for the summer months? It's tempting to find a reason why should that stipend should cover only 9 months per year.

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That sounds about the same as UCSC. After taxes the TA stipend is about $1500-1700 /month, depending on the year. Research stipends are lower - $1300-1500. It's also difficult to live on that anywhere in the area because they've also been de-funding family student housing AND graduate student housing. This past year they had the audacity to send around an e-mail informing students that they still had plenty of spaces in grad student housing - well, no wonder when you charge $999/ month for a single bedroom in a 4bedroom/2 bathroom (on-campus housing) deal! A decent off-campus bedroom can be found for the ~$700-800 range; 1 bedroom apartments/studios are $1K and up.

 

Groceries in Santa Cruz - even if you shop cheap - around $200-300 USD per month. You can't afford to eat at dining halls on campus; lunch is $8.25 and dinner more than that. Some of the smaller cafes are more affordable but lack in variety....

 

Then there are costs to cover any books, supplies, computer equipment, clothing, i.e. other necessities one needs to actually live. You do get a bus pass - but even the gym fees are covered by student fees not always covered by your department (a sum of ~$330 per quarter paid for out of your pocket).

 

I don't know who they're kidding, but the stipends just don't cut it in the UC system. I love the Santa Cruz campus and people, but sure am glad to not be there anymore; if I hadn't moved there with savings from a previous job I wouldn't have made it so easily.

Edited by ChinaGrad
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I normally just lurk, but I thought it was important to contribute this one since I know it personally.

 

For my program, my stipend is only about ~$1800/month for the 9 month period as well. However, our department also gets a "fellowship" tacked onto that which ends up making it around ~$2400/month. In addition, if you're talking about the same UC that I am in right now, our department (I don't know if our whole school has this, though) requires full-time pay as RA or TA for the summer. So, this adds about about $9000 for the 3 months of summer.

 

I'm only a first year, but I haven't really felt like I have to watch my money very carefully (well, mostly the studying, classes, responsibilities take precedence over a lot of other things I do). I send my parents about $300~$600 dollars of my stipend a month to pay them back slowly for paying for my undergrad. I eat out about once a week, but mostly eat what I "cook" (rice and whatever the hell I dump into the rice cooker usually..). I don't really buy much stuff in that sense. I do fly back home about once or twice a quarter (a round trip can cost from $100~$200). Overall, I don't think that the stipend offered by my UC is bad at all, especially since we have nice housing (somewhat recently constructed) for a lower cost than the surrounding area for a good twenty minute radius.

 

I don't know if UCs normally offer low stipends, but I think there is a kind of a set standard for stipends for the UC system due to our TA/RA unionization. However, in addition to those stipends, UCs will offer additional fellowships (like mine does, and I know that at least two other UCs do this too) for recruitment. So, if you have a much better offer from a comparable program (especially if your UC wants to rise in rankings), you probably could negotiate a recruitment fellowship addition to the stipend..

 

EDIT:

I forgot to mention that the numbers I put were before taxes. In addition, my housing situation is about $733/month (+$10~20 for electricity) for a two-story apartment with two bedrooms with two people total living in the apartment.

Edited by Trantorian
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Anybody here referring to UC Riverside? Or does anyone have knowledge of living on a graduate stipend in Riverside?
Right now, UCR seems like a better fit to me than my other prospect, Washington University in St. Louis, but WashU is offering about $4k/yr more and cost of living there is about 15-20% less than Riverside according to the online calculators...

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Ok speaking of UC's, does anyone know if you can put your stipend toward your "professional supplemental tuition"? 

 

What do you mean? Generally your stipend is a paycheque (either a physical cheque or deposited into your bank account). It's your own money, like a salary paid for any other job. So, you can spend it any way you want!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well - I got the answer from the grad folks, it DOES come out of your stipend unless your school covers it. So they deduct it before they cut you your check, which comes in three disbursements (one each quarter)

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Stipends at UCs seem to vary a lot from school to school. I was accepted at three UCs this spring (PhD in a physical science discipline), one offering $21k, one $26k, and one $32k. Offers from private schools were mid 20s. Across the board, higher ranked departments had higher stipends.

Edited by electric
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