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Funding Question


rbargiel
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Hi all:

 

 

So, I'm currently weighing my options in terms of funding, and want a little advice.

 

I was accepted to two universities for a Ph.D in cultural anthropology, OSU and UK. The prof with whom I'd like to work at OSU was very helpful during the application process in terms of answering questions, discussing interests, and even as far as providing some revisions to my personal statement. She called me personally back in January to congratulate me and notify me that I had been accepted and nominated for funding. When funding was announced a couple weeks ago, she also emailed me personally before I had even received official notice to tell me I had gotten the award. The university has also been great in terms of everything- I've been in contact with two other faculty members, they're hosting me for an official visit in a few days, and it overall seems like a perfect fit. (I'm especially happy with this kind of treatment, since I have zero formal background in anthropology.)

 

The problem is that the award I received is tuition and fees only. While this is a great opportunity and I'm super grateful for it, it leaves me worried about cost of living. I've been in contact with the department to express my concerns, and they're looking into the possibility of an RA position for me. The prof I'd be working with does research nearly identical to what my interests are, but that chance all comes down to a grant she's waiting to hear back on.

 

I have yet to receive any notice on funding from Kentucky, and they have not been nearly as helpful. (I tried to set up a visit with them, and never received a response to my email.) I've read elsewhere that an acceptance without funding is a polite rejection. In terms of OSU, it doesn't seem this is the case: I technically am funded, but only for tuition and fees. From what I've seen, this is normal for their first year students since it's such a big university and funding is extremely competitive. I'd really rather not seek out a part-time job or take out more student loans for living expenses, and the prospect of "soft money" is somewhat reassuring, but not fully.

 

I'll also add that while Kentucky would be a great opportunity, I'd much rather go to OSU. It's also concerning because there's that "what if"... what if Kentucky offers me full, guaranteed funding for my program and this is the best OSU can do?

 

So, fellow anthropologists: what would you do? They seem to be making an effort to recruit me, which makes me feel like I'm wanted. They also have a good track record of funding through RAships and TAships in the second year. It's this first year slump that I'm concerned about. Any advice?

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I'd give Kentucky until the OSU acceptance deadline. If UK doesn't get back to you by then, accept OSU with no regrets. Congrats, btw.

 

Thanks! UK's deadline is actually earlier though. They need to know by March 28th, and I have until April 15th for OSU.

 

I'll probably reject Kentucky, honestly, but I'm going to stretch out my acceptance from OSU until I either a) get more solid funding or B) reach the deadline.

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I think that if the department is an amazing fit, and it sounds like OSU is a great fit for you, it may be worth it to go the first year without full funding. I also know a lot of grad students are TAs, RAs, and instructors. You could take out loans to live on just for the first year, or you could try to get external funding. From what I understand from interacting with grad students and profs at OSU, there are quite a few funding opportunities once you're there. Good luck, I hope you get it all figured out. OSU is great :)

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Read this: https://chronicle.com/article/Graduate-School-Is-a-Means-to/131316/

 

the whole thing is a good reality check (not that you can't deviate from it) especially this advice which can help when we're wowed by even getting into places, when in fact we should be glad we got in, but only going if we're just about 100% funded.

 

"Do not attend graduate school unless you are fully supported by—at minimum—a multiyear teaching assistantship that provides a tuition waiver, a stipend, and health insurance that covers most of the years of your program. The stipend needs to be generous enough to support your actual living expenses for the location. Do not take out new debt to attend graduate school. Because the tenure-track job market is so bleak, graduate school in the humanities and social sciences is, in most cases, not worth going into debt for."

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Just want to point out now NSF considers physical anthropology a hard science while the other fields social sciences. I agree completely for this since for both masters and phd I used hard chemistry techniques. Thus when analyzing that article the two must be separated and hat article only applies to the social science side o anthropology. This is because physical side has a lot more post docs, and more funding opportunities. Plus with physical we can teach biology at the university level. In fact a lot of the elite profs for physical actually are part of the bio department versus anthro department.

And I follow this philosophy...never take out more student loan debt than you WILL make in salary the first year out. Be honest with yourself. I see so many people in grad school that are just wasting their time and maxing out student loans every semester and is no where close to finishing after their fourth year. This makes me sad. And I do feel bad for the people 100k plus in student loan debt. As for me, I never worried about funding since I am confident in my ability of getting my own funding if necessary. What even better supplement the department funding with more funding which I have done my entire time.

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Read this: https://chronicle.com/article/Graduate-School-Is-a-Means-to/131316/

 

the whole thing is a good reality check (not that you can't deviate from it) especially this advice which can help when we're wowed by even getting into places, when in fact we should be glad we got in, but only going if we're just about 100% funded.

 

"Do not attend graduate school unless you are fully supported by—at minimum—a multiyear teaching assistantship that provides a tuition waiver, a stipend, and health insurance that covers most of the years of your program. The stipend needs to be generous enough to support your actual living expenses for the location. Do not take out new debt to attend graduate school. Because the tenure-track job market is so bleak, graduate school in the humanities and social sciences is, in most cases, not worth going into debt for."

 

Canis, I'll agree to disagree with you on most of this article. While well-intended, I disagree with the underlying philosophy of much of it. Thanks regardless for your insights. It's definitely something I've kept in mind throughout the process.

 

I ended up accepting Ohio State's offer and declining University of Kentucky's. My POI at OSU has been really great about everything throughout the process and so that really draws me in. We're going to hash out some funding things later this week when I have a chance to visit the department, but I'm confident. If not, I have a backup financial plan with minimal loans. I'm feeling a lot more confident now than I was a week ago.

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I suppose everyone might have different goals in getting a PhD. It's the same advice every professor and mentor has given me for the past 7 years of college through my BA and MA: "Don't get a PhD unless it's fully funded."

 

It's because they are on the front lines and see that there are literally no jobs anymore. All the tenure track jobs have been replaced with contingent and adjunct labor. 80% of the courses at schools like CUNY are now taught by students or PhDs who have temporary seasonal teaching jobs.

 

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my PhD, but I'm turning down the offers that would require taking on more debt. I already have debt from undergrad and my MA, and having a PhD doesn't increase your chances of getting work, so going into debt for it would just make things worse for me.

 

My cousin who has a PhD in engineering was recently turned down for a job at a company who told her that they would have hired her with just an MA, but with the PhD they think she's overqualified. No teaching jobs and other jobs think you're too qualified. But, if you want to teach overseas, which I hope to do - it's perfect.

 

This does make me curious - what are everyone's plans with their PhDs? Do you have jobs in mind?

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Education should be about, well, education.  A PhD isn't a job ticket: it's a life learning expereince.  Also, I wonder why peopel think that any univesity MUST fund them?  If its right for you, right for your learning and intelectual goals, then it's a good choice.  If the educationmeans you have to sacrfice too much,then think seriously about that too.  At the end of the day in our society (and short of a major change) getting a PhD offer is not a job offer, it's a chance to learn. 

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Education should be about, well, education.  A PhD isn't a job ticket: it's a life learning expereince.  Also, I wonder why peopel think that any univesity MUST fund them?  If its right for you, right for your learning and intelectual goals, then it's a good choice.  If the educationmeans you have to sacrfice too much,then think seriously about that too.  At the end of the day in our society (and short of a major change) getting a PhD offer is not a job offer, it's a chance to learn. 

 

The spirit of this is exciting and fun, and I agree about the passion for research, exploration, and learning. If I didn't have that passion I wouldn't have made it through the last 7 years of school and grad school.

 

That said, the above is something you'd only argue if you haven't really spoken to a PhD student, haven't been through a graduate program, haven't talked to professors about graduate school, and haven't done research on what getting a PhD actually entails.

 

It's also a position of incredible privilege. Many people going to graduate school have families, children, partners, to consider. Many people going to graduate school already have debt. They have futures to consider for their families. Only if you have none of these responsibilities and piles of money OR are willing to go into incredible debt (100k+ or more for US schools).

 

It's exactly right that getting a PhD is not going to lead to a job offer (publishing, networking, job talks, etc. will) which is exactly why you should not go to an unfunded program.

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Since the topic at hand is funding, we should all pay close attention to current legislature affecting social science research right now:

 

"A House of Representatives subcommittee on Wednesday advanced legislation that would keep total funding targets for the National Science Foundation at roughly their current levels but would slash the agency’s budget for social and behavioral science research.

The bill would cut social and behavior science research funding to $200 million, a 22 percent decrease from its current $256 million. 

 

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/03/14/house-subcommittee-approves-bill-would-cut-nsf-social-science-research#ixzz2wEwvAumB 

 

Here's a link to the bill:
 

http://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/HR4186.pdf
 

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I suppose everyone might have different goals in getting a PhD. It's the same advice every professor and mentor has given me for the past 7 years of college through my BA and MA: "Don't get a PhD unless it's fully funded."

 

It's because they are on the front lines and see that there are literally no jobs anymore. All the tenure track jobs have been replaced with contingent and adjunct labor. 80% of the courses at schools like CUNY are now taught by students or PhDs who have temporary seasonal teaching jobs.

 

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my PhD, but I'm turning down the offers that would require taking on more debt. I already have debt from undergrad and my MA, and having a PhD doesn't increase your chances of getting work, so going into debt for it would just make things worse for me.

 

My cousin who has a PhD in engineering was recently turned down for a job at a company who told her that they would have hired her with just an MA, but with the PhD they think she's overqualified. No teaching jobs and other jobs think you're too qualified. But, if you want to teach overseas, which I hope to do - it's perfect.

 

This does make me curious - what are everyone's plans with their PhDs? Do you have jobs in mind?

 

Canis, I've actually received some different advice from many of the professors with whom I've spoken. First off, keep in mind that I am technically funded- a tuition award is still more than what many PhD students get going into OSU, and I have a strong chance at another assistantship. The reality is that at a place like Ohio State, the big funding packages are university-wide competition. I wasn't eligible for this (Your GRE percentile average needs to be 75 percentile or greater; I missed this by a mere point) but I do know that I'm entering with more than a lot of people have, especially for this department.

 

One of the positives that I'll mention is with regards to the sciences: the department I'll be working in requires at least two courses each in the three major subfields (physical, archaeology, cultural). Though I'm specializing in cultural, I have research interests that are integrative to an extent, so this doesn't concern me as much. My goal is a combination of research, writing, and teaching, but I also want to be able to use my work to inform policy. There are plenty of job opportunities outside the Ivory Tower, especially for anthropologists. And to be frank, I'd be okay as an adjunct instructor at the right institution, though I genuinely think that I have what it takes to do something a little better for myself than that.

 

A plan helps, yes, but you can have the best plan and the most perfect everything and still not be able to find a job. I've made the assessments and for me personally I think that it's worth it. Will I have to take out a little bit of money in loans to live this year? Probably. But I'm okay with that, to an extent. Obviously I don't want to take out $20,000 to live, so I'm weighing options.

 

I'm not totally sure that such a cut-throat approach focusing on money as the driver is what academia should be about. While it's true that we're puppeteered by organizations like the U.S. government, it's also important to think outside the bank (my lame take on "think outside the box"). Maybe I'm too optimistic in believing it, but I think that academia should be more about what in_theory is referencing, and I HAVE done all of the research you describe and more.

 

The point being, academia should be about the benefit of human society as a whole. We research to advance the world, not to advance ourselves. Being foolishly altruistic and taking on massive debt to achieve this goal is a bad idea, but so is squeezing oneself into a tight little box in order to accommodate the string pullers. Let them tug you and they'll just keep on doing it. I'm sure my cultural ecology background is showing in that... :-)

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Canis- different subfield a so different advice. Not once did any advice revolve around funding. All the advice from my LOR writers were go with the very best advisor you can. This will lead you to the best opportunities. That is my advice but then again I worked my tail off in high school and got through undergrad debt free. And I'm going to be graduating in may with my phd with only 20k in student loan debt and I already have a tenure job set up. But then again what do I know. And I went to an unfunded masters, and got funding within a month. Turned down a funded phd went to an unfounded phd only to be told when I accepted the offer that I did actually get funded. And for the mix up the department arranged for me to be an instructor there as well and teach 1 class and get paid additional for it.

Edited by anthropologygeek
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anthropologygeek's comment reminded me- I should be honest and say that I chose an undergraduate institution that has left me with another kind of Ph.D- "piled high and deep"... in debt. I won't specify how much debt I'm in because it's a source of contention for me, but it's too much.

 

The good news is that I have plans to pay it back. I have a family member with a generous will that will assist with some of that repayment. Plus, also remember that academics are eligible for public employee loan forgiveness- tenure track or not, and this includes non-profit private schools as of 2009. Granted, you have to make 120 payments before the rest is washed away, but the point remains that it's not impossible.

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True- hence why I mentioned the family member. My Grandpa cosigned my loans after my parent's bankruptcy. He's 83 and knows he won't live to see the time my loans are due in full 15 years from now, and so he's allocated enough so that I can pay the loans he's signed for me.

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FYI- there's a bill in the works to cap the government loan forgiveness at $57,500... Something to keep in mind.

 

And Canis, while it's nice to be able to say that you could do okay as an adjunct, it's important to realize that that isn't the reality for many people. Adjunct pay (my current institution pays adjuncts ~$2000 per 3 credit hour course) and the lack of medical benefits isn't feasible for many people, unless they want to join the ranks of adjuncts living in homeless shelters or have outside financial support (trust fund, large inheritance, spousal support). The thought of having to teach 8-9 courses a year to approximate my graduate student income for years in the future is just *not* appealing. I like the idea that it should be about sharing my knowledge but not the idea that I must live in poverty for decades to do so.

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FYI- there's a bill in the works to cap the government loan forgiveness at $57,500... Something to keep in mind.

 

And Canis, while it's nice to be able to say that you could do okay as an adjunct, it's important to realize that that isn't the reality for many people. Adjunct pay (my current institution pays adjuncts ~$2000 per 3 credit hour course) and the lack of medical benefits isn't feasible for many people, unless they want to join the ranks of adjuncts living in homeless shelters or have outside financial support (trust fund, large inheritance, spousal support). The thought of having to teach 8-9 courses a year to approximate my graduate student income for years in the future is just *not* appealing. I like the idea that it should be about sharing my knowledge but not the idea that I must live in poverty for decades to do so.

 

Wasn't sure if I read this wrong - but to clarify I agree completely and didn't advocate for anyone working as an adjunct, let alone adjuncts themselves who are struggling even more than my last public school teacher roommate! I think you may have meant to direct that at rbargiel who mentioned they would be ok being an adjunct at the right school.

 

Adjuncting shouldn't be a job - but at schools like CUNY and others now, it has become a full-time job for a large percentage of people with PhD in hand. This, in part, explains my insistence that folks really understand what they're getting into when they make the decision to go to a school that doesn't give solid funding. Every day in NYC I meet a disillusioned PhD who completed a top program, studied with amazing people, and can't get more than temporary, seasonal, teaching work. They're drowning in debt.

 

That said - yes, if I use my PhD to be more of a follower spouse for my SOs career, I'll gladly do some teaching on the side, but it's not a job or a career. Or even a real income!

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A place like New York City is bound to be a bit of a skewed perception though, don't you think? I've heard that CUNY and NYU are among the worst abusers of adjunct labor.... though the trend is certainly not limited. My undergrad institution is facing threats of repealed accreditation at the moment because we currently have more than 50% of our classes being taught by adjuncts. Not a pretty situation.

 

I'm heading to Columbus in just a few hours to meet with the department. Hopefully they can provide me with some more answers in terms of funding. Wish me luck...

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You would think NYC would skew the results - but I was admitted to UMass (Amherst) and in my conversations with students there, it's just as bad, if not worse!

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So I have good funding (research assistantship with full out of state tuition and fees + 1.2k/mo stipend) from school A which I like and is a good fit. But I have no funding at all from school B which is a great fit with probably more opportunity.

 

I feel kind of bad about "playing" school B with the offer I got from A, but I've read articles saying to do this.

 

Any thoughts? And how would I do this while maintaining tact? I just don't want to come off as a douche to school B.

 

All comments are appreciated.

 

This is a 2 year master's in both cases, FYI.

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KingScilla, it might be a good idea to tell your POI that you're really considering their university because you know it's a great fit and a great department for your research and career goals, and ask if there are any funding opportunities that they could work out, so that you can accept their offer since you'd really like to do that but have an offer elsewhere with funding. 

Just show a high level of interest in program B and show that you'd accept if there was funding.

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KingScilla, it might be a good idea to tell your POI that you're really considering their university because you know it's a great fit and a great department for your research and career goals, and ask if there are any funding opportunities that they could work out, so that you can accept their offer since you'd really like to do that but have an offer elsewhere with funding. 

Just show a high level of interest in program B and show that you'd accept if there was funding.

 

I am actually on a "waitlist" for funding according to the POI at school B. So idk if telling him about my funding offer will have an effect or if I might just move up on this waitlist for funding.

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