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NSF GRFP stipend not being dispersed on time/regularly

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Hi all,

I recently started my NSF GRFP stipend tenure (starting with summer tenure in June), and for the past two months, my stipend has been processed late/irregularly dispensed. I was told that my payment should be administered on the 1st of every month (when my rent and many of my bills are due; and when I previously got paid for my teaching stipend), but in June, I wasn't paid until June 7 because the office had some internal problems with processing my on-time paperwork. 

This month, it's already the 6th of July, and my payment hasn't even been processed (and it takes an additional 2-3 business days for the payment to post, after that). I realize that there was the holiday weekend earlier this week, but I also have bills to pay...

I contacted the payment director for my school, and she said the delay is due to "system upgrade unrelated to our office," and although they realize it's not ideal, I should try to be a month ahead on all of my bills. Recently I've had to use a lot of my personal savings to pay for an international conference (to be reimbursed several weeks later) and a training workshop (where I had to cover airfare).

Is there anything that we as grad students can do, if we feel we aren't being paid regularly/on time? Does the NSF have any rules about being paid within a certain time period? The first 2 years of grad school (when not on NSF), I never had so many issues within being paid within a few day time period. Likewise, I can't imagine that would be acceptable for a "normal job" (being paid over a week later, multiple months in a row, without warning).

I was thinking of talking to the ombudsman at my university, but I don't know what else I can do... Has anyone else had this experience? Anyone have any suggestions? Do we have any rights at all, as grad students, in terms of being paid in a timely manner?

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I don't know if NSF has any specific guidelines about this. But on your other point, yes, it is not good that your school keeps being late on your stipend payment! However, the only rights you might have are whatever your grad student government or union has negotiated. Many schools do not treat students as employees and as such, there aren't any agreements with the grad student government and there aren't any unions either.

I think the ombudsman is a good place to go, but if you are represented by a union or a grad student government, I would go to them first and see what they could do. If it's nothing or too slow, then consider the University ombudsman, or the person in charge of grad student administrative affairs in your own department. Lastly, you can also talk to the person/office in charge of all grad student affairs at your school.

Ultimately, you might not be able to get much done before you find your own way to manage the situation. But surely you are not the only person having to deal with these late payments. If you don't say anything, nothing will change. Having your voice and that of other affected students can motivate the school to do something about it. For example, at my PhD school, we were paid on the 26th of every month. I was always paid on time, which was good, but the main problem we had was for the first pay period. Most people will arrive in mid September, have orientation in late September, but the first pay period is not until Oct 26th (October is the first month in which we're paid). So this means about 6 weeks without a paycheque! The school helped out with this by granting all new students a no-interest, no-fee loan equal to about 1 month's pay that is paid out when we arrive in September. This loan is repaid in 18 monthly installments starting 6 months after the loan is paid (i.e. it will be all paid up by the end of your 2nd year). 

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I dealt with this some when I was a grad student. It mostly had to do with the fact that the same office doesn't process "normal" stipends (TA, RA) as does NSF. NSF fellowships are a grant, and processed rough the grants office- it makes another layer of people that have to sign off on it, and can slow it down. 

The first person I would contact is your institutions NSF program officer. They're the ones who are effectively the "PI" on your fellowship, and will likely be the most helpful person to resolve payment issues. 

My department had a really hard time dealing with my NSF, since I was the first and only person to get one, and they had no idea how to make it work. I would get missed months of payments, made up the next month. P

NSF does not interfere at all with how you're paid- the institution can do it on whatever schedule they want. By weeks, months, semester, etc. The only time they got involved was when all of the fellows at my school (only 3 of us) were ~ 6 mos behind in a payment (cost of living boost in the summer). I had a contact at the NSF that I had to use to get that handled. 

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  • 1 month later...

Hey, just wanted to post on here and let you know you're not alone with this. Was awarded the fellowship this year, and have had the HARDEST time getting everything processed at my school. And there are 4 of us this year! I received a bill from my school for almost $6,000 due Sep 15th which included fees, tuition, etc. meaning my school hasn't even processed our grants yet. When I called the office that handles this, they said the same thing...a system upgrade set them 45 days behind schedule. I hope since you're last post things have gotten better. I'm hoping I will actually get paid Sep 1st, but I'm not too optimistic.

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