Grad students avoid cuts through backfill

Stipends amount unchanged, new funding comes from presidential budget, scholarships

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Grad students avoid cuts through backfill

Josh Munroe, GPSA vice president of Legislative Affairs, left, and Vice President Amir Gilmore discuss cuts to teaching and research assistant stipends.

Josh Munroe, GPSA vice president of Legislative Affairs, left, and Vice President Amir Gilmore discuss cuts to teaching and research assistant stipends.

BONNIE JAMES | THE DAILY EVERGREEN

Josh Munroe, GPSA vice president of Legislative Affairs, left, and Vice President Amir Gilmore discuss cuts to teaching and research assistant stipends.

BONNIE JAMES | THE DAILY EVERGREEN

BONNIE JAMES | THE DAILY EVERGREEN

Josh Munroe, GPSA vice president of Legislative Affairs, left, and Vice President Amir Gilmore discuss cuts to teaching and research assistant stipends.

ANGELICA RELENTE, Evergreen reporter

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Graduate and professional students were able to delay the impacts of university-wide spending cuts when the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture found alternative funding to backfill their stipend reductions.

In September, teaching and research assistants in the college were told their monthly stipends would be reduced Jan. 1 in order to meet the 2.5 percent spending cut that was proposed by WSU President Kirk Schulz. Last semester, the minimum monthly stipend for master’s students was $2,057 and $2,207 for doctoral students. The proposed cuts would have dropped their stipends to $1,687 for master’s students and $1,863 for doctoral candidates.

Joshua Munroe, vice president of Legislative Affairs for the Graduate and Professional Students Association along with President Shane Reynolds and Vice President Amir Gilmore, met with WSU administrators and college officials in hopes of finding a solution outside of reducing stipends.

“Their whole life was just going to erratically change within a matter of months,” Gilmore said. “They just didn’t have enough time to think about and make sure they had enough money for food and rent.”

Mary Rezac, dean of the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, said she and her staff worked to prevent the reduction from impacting students. Schools within the college were able to gather scholarships and fellowships from sources on and off campus, as well as from Schulz’s presidential budget, which helped backfill the reduction. The college was able to fill in the remaining gap with $370 provided for master students and $344 for doctoral candidates from outside sources.

“We’re trying hard to protect the core function we do as an institution,” Rezac said.

In addition to backfilling funds from outside sources to pay for stipends, Rezac said she hopes to continue to look into their budget to avoid future overspending.

“We are working hard to get ourselves to the point where we are much more balanced in our expenditures,” Rezac said.

Phil Weiler, vice president of marketing and communications for WSU, said Schulz did not think cutting graduate student pay was a good idea. He added that graduate students budgeted for the year and had an expectation for their earnings, and if their stipend was reduced, they would need to refine their budget.

However, Weiler said if some small cuts were not made somewhere, dramatic cuts would have to occur in the future.

“By identifying that there was a problem,” Weiler said, “we’re able to make small changes now to avoid having to make big reductions later.”

Although serious impact to students was avoided this semester, Reynolds said graduate students are still bound to face stipend cuts next semester. There is a large number of students in the college, Reynolds added, and the department may not have enough money to support all of them.

By making this issue known, GPSA hopes it will give graduate students ample time to prepare themselves. Munroe said being in touch with the administration and getting a clearer understanding of budget issues in advance is a priority this year.

“We need to keep at it, we need to keep talking to the administration,” Munroe said, “because the more support the students get on the front end, the more support they’re going to give back to the university and the economy.”