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UB lifts PhD recruitment pause, will provide additional funding for new students

UB Living Stipend Movement
University at Buffalo graduate students protest for better teaching assistant stipends in Capen Hall on campus in September of 2017.

The University at Buffalo is lifting its stoppage on Ph.D. student recruitment, saying it will provide additional funding so programs can afford to take on new students.


Robin Scholze, UB’s College of Arts and Sciences dean, emailed faculty Wednesday that they can once again recruit funded Ph.D. students for next academic year after the UB administration agreed to her request for additional funding.


“I believe absolutely that we need to support our PhD students better and recommit to the idea that they are co-investigators vital to the university's success as a research institution,” Scholze said in the email, noting her funding request was based on a resolution from faculty. “I am confident that with all faculty fully engaged, we will enhance both current and future students’ experiences at UB and help our students achieve successful outcomes.”


Faculty and students raised concerns over the last two weeks after the College of Arts and Sciences told 24 of its 30 doctoral programs they could not give out stipends to new Ph.D. students for next year and to stop recruitment. 


College officials had said reducing the incoming Ph.D. class was the only way to pay for increasing the Ph.D. student stipend minimum to $20,000 as part of the university’s new PhD Excellence Initiative.


UB was originally only going to fully fund the increased stipends this year before decreasing to 50% next year and 25% the year after, UB Council student representative Michael Montoro told WBFO last month.

Montoro and other Ph.D. students in the Living Stipend Movement have been demanding better teaching and research assistant stipends, but also that the UB administration provide the necessary funding so the College of Arts and Sciences could afford it.


Now, UB officials say they will fully fund the increased stipends this year and next year, and decrease to only 50% the year after that.


A. Scott Weber, UB’s vice president for student life and interim provost, said in a memo that the additional bridge funding will support Ph.D. stipends while providing “a more flexible window” for deans to make evaluations of their Ph.D. programs.


UB is looking for input to fund and execute the PhD Excellence Initiative for the long term. They’ll have a meeting to discuss this Tuesday, Weber said.


In an email, UB spokesperson John DellaContrada said the PhD Excellence Initiative is strengthening UB’s Ph.D. programs and will turn UB into a national leader in Ph.D. education.


Tom Dinki joined WBFO in August 2019 to cover issues affecting older adults.
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