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OSU set to raise grad associate stipends from ‘bottom of the barrel’

Ohio State students and administrators say a 16.7 percent increase in annual stipends for graduate associates is only a start.

The Council of Graduate Students unanimously passed a resolution July 15 supporting the stipend increase to $10,500 from $9,000, effective Autumn Quarter 2011, and calling for the Office of Human Resources to review GA compensation yearly.

“Stipends are supposed to provide enough money for a student to be able to reasonably live,” said Jason Marion, 2010–11 chair of the Graduate Associate Compensation and Benefits Committee. “How could you expect someone to survive on such a low amount?”

The $9,000-per-year minimum stipend, offered to each OSU graduate associate, was below most or all of its peer institutions, according to documents from OSU’s HR office.

“I’m very pleased we could do that,” said Pat Osmer, dean of OSU’s graduate school. “With the low minimum, I think we were in a pretty uncompetitive position.”

GCBC’s 2010–11 annual report showed OSU’s graduate teaching and administrative associates received the second-lowest minimum stipend of its peers, and OSU’s graduate research associates were offered the lowest minimum stipend.

“The data spoke for themselves,” Osmer told the council on July 15. “We were not in a good place.”

Marion agreed.

“When you’re paying the bottom of the barrel,” he said, “you’re not going to recruit a national scholar to this university.”

Comparison schools included the universities of Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin, but all documents separated the universities’ names from their data to keep them anonymous. Though expenses including cost of living and university fees were not considered in the report, Marion said, that data was collected several years ago when faculty salary was compared among the universities. Other than the University of California-Los Angeles and the University of Maryland, Marion said, OSU’s peer schools offered similar costs of living.

Osmer said OSU must offer more competitive stipends to attract high-quality students and to help them live comfortably while pursuing advanced degrees. He said the graduate school’s goal is to increase the minimum annual stipend by $1,500 each of the following two years to bring OSU closer to the middle of its peers in that respect. CGS’s resolution supported that proposal.

“The graduate school intends to review it every year,” said Ann Salimbene, assistant dean of OSU’s graduate school. “That’s the best we can do.”

Osmer said the university’s budget must be considered before making pay increases.

“This year,” he said, “we could do it within all the budget parameters we had.”

During the 2010–11 academic year, OSU’s graduate school employed 2,161 research associates, 2,233 teaching associates and 401 administrative associates. Of those, Marion said, only a small percentage was paid the minimum stipend.

Marion said OSU administrators have been responsive to GCBC’s report, presented to University Senate on May 26, but that more progress remains to be made.

“The president wants to take this university from excellence to eminence,” he said. “You’re not going to do it with a $9,000 minimum stipend.”

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