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Stipend negotiation?

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Multiple friends doing their PhDs in engineering and physical sciences told me that they negotiated their stipend before accepting an offer. I had not heard of such a practice in political science --anyone have ideas about that?

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Multiple friends doing their PhDs in engineering and physical sciences told me that they negotiated their stipend before accepting an offer. I had not heard of such a practice in political science --anyone have ideas about that?

 

From what I've heard, it's possible, but one needs to have a credible threat. That is, you need to have a reason for them to change your stipend. Such a reason could be, for example, if you were offered a higher stipend by another school etc.

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This is quite an interesting question for me too. How to do it though? I wouldn't have the first idea about how and with whom to approach this question. Does anybody here have a successful experience of doing it?

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From what I've heard, it's possible, but one needs to have a credible threat. That is, you need to have a reason for them to change your stipend. Such a reason could be, for example, if you were offered a higher stipend by another school etc.

 

That's what I heard as well. Also note that some schools won't do that at all (Michigan basically said: Everyone gets the same stipend), while others will match offers to some degree, taking cost of living etc. into account. While many schools don't have much flexibility in their basic stipend, they might add guaranteed summer funding, decrease TA commitments etc.

Having an external fellowship can also help with negotiations, since some schools are willing to add at least a portion of what they are saving because of the fellowship to your stipend etc. (happened for me).

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This is quite an interesting question for me too. How to do it though? I wouldn't have the first idea about how and with whom to approach this question. Does anybody here have a successful experience of doing it?

 

Again, this is based on hearsay: you should speak to your POI or the DGS (but not at student visits, because one should not be a jerk ^^). I guess being polite and saying that you are really interested in their program but you got a better financial offer from an equivalent program that would be hard to turn down and whether it would be possible for them to revise the stipend should be good enough. They can then let you know if it's possible or not, and enter into negotiations if yes.

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This is quite an interesting question for me too. How to do it though? I wouldn't have the first idea about how and with whom to approach this question. Does anybody here have a successful experience of doing it?

 

I did it with my external fellowship, basically.

 

I would write whomever sent you the financial offer, in the following vein (and only if it really is one of your top choices, BTW).

 

"Thanks for your offer of admission, I am very excited to be learning more about your program. ... school is one of my top choices. However, naturally, I am also concerned with finances, as I will be committing to a program for 5 years. This program (preferably one that the school perceives at least as equally ranked/reputable, you probably won't get a better offer from Princeton when you show them your an offer from a T-25, e.g.) has offered me... in terms of funding. Is there any flexibility in your budget to match this offer? (It also might not help to identify certain things you'd like to have, e.g. provide me with 4 summers of funding/increase professional development funds?)."

 

Nice, respectful and honest seems to be the way to go here. They won't rescind your offer, the worst thing that'll happen is that they tell you they don't have the leeway to do that, or explain why their funding stretches further than you expect (e.g. health insurance)

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Thanks a lot! These are very useful.

 

Then comes another question: what is a good offer? I guess two years of TAship is pretty much standard, but how about if a school gives you one year of funding + 3 years of TAship?

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Thanks a lot! These are very useful.

 

Then comes another question: what is a good offer? I guess two years of TAship is pretty much standard, but how about if a school gives you one year of funding + 3 years of TAship?

 

Does this then equal only 4 years of guaranteed funding? That would be a red flag for me, since average time to completion is closer to 6 or 7 at most places, and 5 years of funding should be standard! Regarding TA/stipend: Depends on the school! State schools tend to have more TA commitments than private ones, for obvious reasons.

 

I would say TA-ing in years 1+2 might be annoying, since you're still taking classes (especially year 1 TA-ing might be difficult), though people have managed before!

 

I would say a good offer is one that guarantees funding for 5 years, doesn't unduly burden you to TA (different people have different opinions on this), and provides enough money for you to live on (expected)! Check out COL estimators etc. for this aspect! Also look at what kind of health insurance and fees are included in the package, as this might make an important difference in your take-home stipend/money!

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Does this then equal only 4 years of guaranteed funding? That would be a red flag for me, since average time to completion is closer to 6 or 7 at most places, and 5 years of funding should be standard! Regarding TA/stipend: Depends on the school! State schools tend to have more TA commitments than private ones, for obvious reasons.

 

I would say TA-ing in years 1+2 might be annoying, since you're still taking classes (especially year 1 TA-ing might be difficult), though people have managed before!

 

I would say a good offer is one that guarantees funding for 5 years, doesn't unduly burden you to TA (different people have different opinions on this), and provides enough money for you to live on (expected)! Check out COL estimators etc. for this aspect! Also look at what kind of health insurance and fees are included in the package, as this might make an important difference in your take-home stipend/money!

 

Thanks a lot! Very helpful. Fingers crossed that we will hear (great) news today!

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I'm wondering how to approach this topic myself. At my top two choices from current acceptances in hand, the one is a better fit and higher ranked program, which is fantastic - but it will require a cross-country move, would require 5 years RA/TA commitments (barring special fellowships along the way), and offers less than the other program, which is offering first year fellowship and 4 years guaranteed TA/RA (likely 5th year w/o obligations, though) at a higher rate in a lower cost of living city. It sucks that money even has to be a question in this, but it is the next 5 years at least of our life...

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I'm wondering how to approach this topic myself. At my top two choices from current acceptances in hand, the one is a better fit and higher ranked program, which is fantastic - but it will require a cross-country move, would require 5 years RA/TA commitments (barring special fellowships along the way), and offers less than the other program, which is offering first year fellowship and 4 years guaranteed TA/RA (likely 5th year w/o obligations, though) at a higher rate in a lower cost of living city. It sucks that money even has to be a question in this, but it is the next 5 years at least of our life...

 

How large is the difference in ranking? I suspect I know which programs you're talking about, and my feeling would be that unfortunately, the difference in ranking is large enough that your chances for success are quite low. However, it doesn't hurt to ask, and I can't imagine that asking would have any negative ramifications for you. Since it seems that one is a clear favorite of yours, I would make them aware of this. However, I would wait for other decisions to come in, and see whether the situation remains the same.

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How large is the difference in ranking? I suspect I know which programs you're talking about, and my feeling would be that unfortunately, the difference in ranking is large enough that your chances for success are quite low. However, it doesn't hurt to ask, and I can't imagine that asking would have any negative ramifications for you. Since it seems that one is a clear favorite of yours, I would make them aware of this. However, I would wait for other decisions to come in, and see whether the situation remains the same.

 

Yes, you know which I'm talking about. It's worth noting that they're tied in NRC, and I have no doubt that quality of training will be comparable (though with different foci, most certainly).

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Yes, you know which I'm talking about. It's worth noting that they're tied in NRC, and I have no doubt that quality of training will be comparable (though with different foci, most certainly).

You're right. Your first choice is lower-ranked than I expected, though placement is much better than rank would expect. I would wait for your actual first choice to send out decisions (should be soon, right?), and if you don't get in, approach uni A about possibly upping your funding offer!

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The offer I received didn't explicitly mention health insurance, so I'm wondering if I could negotiate for that. I'm also thinking of trying to go for a full or partial fee waiver. If the offer letter doesn't explicitly mention health insurance, should I assume I'm not getting it?

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The offer I received didn't explicitly mention health insurance, so I'm wondering if I could negotiate for that. I'm also thinking of trying to go for a full or partial fee waiver. If the offer letter doesn't explicitly mention health insurance, should I assume I'm not getting it?

My offer didn't mention health insurance, but actually includes health insurance, so I'd just ask!

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That's what I heard as well. Also note that some schools won't do that at all (Michigan basically said: Everyone gets the same stipend), while others will match offers to some degree, taking cost of living etc. into account. While many schools don't have much flexibility in their basic stipend, they might add guaranteed summer funding, decrease TA commitments etc.

Having an external fellowship can also help with negotiations, since some schools are willing to add at least a portion of what they are saving because of the fellowship to your stipend etc. (happened for me).

I have never heard of anyone getting a larger stipend from the department. I have seen people get more total dollars because of an outside fellowship or scholarship, though.

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Bumping this thread. Is this something we should do before or after program visits?

 

Depends? Do you have other offers in hand? From my understanding, if you're going to negotiate you need to be prepared to present a copy of the offer letter you have that provides better funding/TA/RA/fellowship/etc. I've also been told that its best to negotiate in good faith: you should only do it if your first choice's offer is less in some way than another offer you are seriously considering. So you shouldn't be starting a negotiation with a school that you would not consider going to even if they upped their offer. Because if they up their offer they are also going to be looking for you to accept their offer right away. 

 

I admittedly haven't done any negotiating, but this is how it was explained to me at the programs office at my former university. 

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Along this topic, one thing I'm going to have to do some research on is the value of health insurance.  Or I guess more specifically, what it costs the university to provide that.  To those of us with families, health insurance is a big deal; however, I already have good insurance through my wife's employer.  I'd be interested to hear if anyone in a similar situation managed to turn the offer of health insurance into something they could actually use .

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It happens. If you have other offers from roughly comparable or higher ranked schools, you should try it. Worst case scenario is that they will say no. There is no shame in accepting the offer if they say no, and no shame in rejecting it if they say yes. As long as you do what you do in good faith, you need to pursue what is best for you. Grad Directors know that, and since they also want to get the best students they can, they will help you if it is in their power. In a sense, negotiating is actually mutually beneficial. 

 

You just need to remember that it might just not be possible for the DGS to make adjustments on the offer, so don't take it personal if negotiating gets you nowhere. 

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Bumping this thread. Is this something we should do before or after program visits?

 

Tread carefully. Most departments have very strong norms against differential stipends across a single cohort. Where there can be variation is in things like summer funding, a conference grant, support for ICPSR etc. But the actual stipend amount varies little within a cohort typically.

 

Where there is more flexibility and room to push is in # of guaranteed years of funding and proportion of those years that are on fellowship versus TA/RA. But don't overthink this. I'd go to a better program with a worse funding offer. In fact, I did just that and have no regrets whatsoever.

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Tread carefully. Most departments have very strong norms against differential stipends across a single cohort. Where there can be variation is in things like summer funding, a conference grant, support for ICPSR etc. But the actual stipend amount varies little within a cohort typically.

 

Where there is more flexibility and room to push is in # of guaranteed years of funding and proportion of those years that are on fellowship versus TA/RA. But don't overthink this. I'd go to a better program with a worse funding offer. In fact, I did just that and have no regrets whatsoever.

 

Useful advice. Most schools - school level fellowships aside - would appear to offer near identical packages when it comes to dollars and cents, but some departmental websites give you a hint of what they might be willing to negotiate over.

 

For example, at one of the schools I've been admitted they mention that they cover fees for some students in addition to tuition + stipend. It didn't seem like a big deal until I realised that aforementioned fees could gobble up over 10% of the stipend. So if I wanted to try and negotiate their website gives a good idea of where to begin without appearing completely unreasonable.

Edited by AuldReekie

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Useful advice. Most schools - school level fellowships aside - would appear to offer near identical packages when it comes to dollars and cents, but some departmental websites give you a hint of what they might be willing to negotiate over.

 

For example, at one of the schools I've been admitted they mention that they cover fees for some students in addition to tuition + stipend. It didn't seem like a big deal until I realised that aforementioned fees could gobble up over 10% of the stipend. So if I wanted to try and negotiate their website gives a good idea of where to begin without appearing completely unreasonable.

 

Yes, but easy with the language of "negotiate". Make a polite request. If it's really the case, indicate that this might influence your decision. But understand that faculty will be bemused at the notion of you making a huge life/career decision for what is at most going to be a couple of thousand dollars per year. Granted that's a lot of money to a grad student on a poverty wage, but to negotiate successfully you have to put yourself in the other person's shoes so ask yourself what would make a persuasive case. 

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Yes, but easy with the language of "negotiate". Make a polite request. If it's really the case, indicate that this might influence your decision. But understand that faculty will be bemused at the notion of you making a huge life/career decision for what is at most going to be a couple of thousand dollars per year. Granted that's a lot of money to a grad student on a poverty wage, but to negotiate successfully you have to put yourself in the other person's shoes so ask yourself what would make a persuasive case. 

 

I beg to differ. I agree that treading carefully, being polite, and understanding that the person you are talking to may not be in a position to make such decision is important. But let's be real. This is a market place. And while it sucks, money is important--for EVERYONE. The faculty member you talk to is not paid by candies and nuts. Chances are that he also negotiated his current position. That doesn't mean they will be ready to negotiate and improve their offers, but even if they can't do anything, they'll understand, and won't look down on you for trying to get a better offer. Everyone wants better salaries, better conditions. There's no shame in it. PhD students are human beings too.     

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