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KindaHardWorker

PI changing schools, likely no pay increase for cost of living?

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So just a bit of background: I got into graduate school last year and have enjoyed my time there so far.  I like the campus, I like working with my PI, I like my lab.  In short, everything was too perfect.  I should have known that meant something was around the corner.  I go to ASU and I love Phoenix/Tempe.

 

My advisor got offered a tenured position at UCLA, which she is taking because it fits perfectly with her long-term plan.  This throws a lot of labmates into interesting scenarios and I'm in a better spot than most, but it's still very strange.  I don't think anyone harbors ill will about it though; there's almost no way she could have turned it down.

 

She has offered to take me and one other student with her when she moves, to continue advising us as UCLA students. After speaking with her a couple of times and lightly touching the issue, I get the impression that there will not be a change in pay.  I get around $1500 a month after taxes, give or take, as a first year graduate student.  There would likely be a raise at the end of the next school year but that's still a ways off.  LA is way more expensive to live in than Phoenix.  This also doesn't take into account moving expenses and such.

 

I wanted to ask if $1500 a month is livable in LA, and also if its normal to not adjust pay based on cost of living.  I have no way to gauge what my expectations should be.  I don't want to be greedy but I also don't want to be wondering if I can eat and have other psychological stresses while I'm taking on what I'm told is a rigorous courseload.  I have a car payment so it's more like $1200 a month not counting that.  I'm grateful that she wants me to go but I don't want to shoot myself in the foot.

 

What are your thoughts?  Is it normal not to change the stipend?  Is this a livable wage in that area?

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I think thats going to be real tough, even with roommates. Also, UCLA is in a super nice part of town, one of the more expensive areas, so it might be difficult finding housing close. You might want to contact current graduate students there, what their pay is, and how they live. I think that might be the best course of action. 

 

I'd personally lose the car, even though LA's public transport isnt the best. It would make it more livable, since gas is exensive and you would likely have to commute further. My mom commutes from Redondo Beach to Santa Monica every day (places in la), about 10 miles, and it takes 45 minutes and sometimes more during rush hour.

Edited by GeoDUDE!

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I think $1500/month in LA will be tough. It will definitely a big decrease in quality of life compared to $1500/month in Phoenix, I think.

 

If I understand the situation right, you will still be a ASU student and will graduate with a ASU PhD. It's just that you will be at UCLA working with your professor? If so, then it's normal that you don't get a pay increase. In these cases, you are just considered a ASU student who is doing work away from ASU campus. But if you are completely switching and will be graduating with a UCLA PhD degree, then you should probably be on the UCLA pay scale and system.

 

In either case, I think if you are worried about it (and there's no reason to *not* be worried), you should directly ask your supervisor and bring up your concern that your ASU stipend won't be enough in LA. She might be able to negotiate more money from UCLA to use to pay her students that move with her. You should also bring up moving expenses and see if you can get anything covered. If this doesn't work, would it be possible for you to switch advisors and stay at ASU and/or stay at ASU and work remotely with your supervisor?

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But if you are completely switching and will be graduating with a UCLA PhD degree, then you should probably be on the UCLA pay scale and system.

 

That's the scenario.  Since I only completed one year under ASU I'd transfer up to 3 classes and my degree would be UCLA.  Assuming that their pay scale is different, would it be likely that she changes it?  She hasn't said it's definitely not changing, but she is paying me under a grant.

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I think you will find UCLAs pay scale a little better, on the order of 2k a month (judging by what other UCs pay). That will still be tough, but imo, doable especially if you are willing to live a little further away (like palms, culver city).

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From what I read, it seems like you are just getting this based on impressions and not a straight statement. I suggest that you have a serious and direct discussion with your advisor about this. Funding is a serious issue for graduate students and advisors usually are understanding about this since they had to go through the same thing. If your advisor is any good, she'd make sure this is taken care of if you're concerned about it. Good luck!

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That's the scenario.  Since I only completed one year under ASU I'd transfer up to 3 classes and my degree would be UCLA.  Assuming that their pay scale is different, would it be likely that she changes it?  She hasn't said it's definitely not changing, but she is paying me under a grant.

 

Oh that's probably good. As far as I know, most students are not paid solely under a grant from their supervisor--usually the department covers a part of your pay too, so you might still see an increase even if your advisor's grant is limited. And, often when new profs move to a new school, they are able to negotiate for additional startup grant. (e.g. my supervisor was paying me out of her startup grant before she was successful at applying for a grant for our work).

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If anyone wants more background info to help me make a decision:

 

 

Serious thank-you's to everyone here, all around.  This was a big event that happened at a less than ideal time and you've helped settle some of my fears about the situation.  I have a one on one meeting with her tomorrow, so I will probably bring a few of these points up.

Edited by KindaHardWorker

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I hope you're granted an increase - by itself, $1500 is not nearly enough to live decently in LA.

 

You might be able to live on your own...if you use at least $1k of that stipend as rent money (you can easily tank 1500 a month on a place by yourself here--especially if you're paying your own utilities). Otherwise, expect to share a place with a couple people.

 

I'm banking on you getting a pay raise, though, since $1500 would be astonishingly low for UCLA. Was recently talking to a UCLA friend whose annual stipend is just north of $30k after tuition waiver. That's more like it.

 

Sending good vibes your way! :)

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