New funding will help university compete for best grad students
By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
15 NOVEMBER 00 | In a major effort to improve graduate student recruitment, the chancellor's cabinet recently announced a commitment of $450,000 to increase current stipends and add 10 new fellowships in the social sciences and humanities for next year.
Improving graduate student recruitment and retention is one of a series of initiatives spearheaded by the cabinet to address the most pressing issues facing the campus. Increasing the number and amount of fellowships is a major step towards reaching that goal.
"This new fellowship money is the first of several efforts to increase graduate student funding," said Mary Ann Mason, Graduate Division dean. "Other initiatives include enhanced dissertation-year support and the launching of a major development campaign to provide endowed funds for future fellowships."
When Mason started her new job as dean this summer, one of her first tasks was to meet with departmental contacts.
During each of her visits, she received the same, loud message: Berkeley is losing talented graduate students to other universities because our fellowships are not competitive.
"This was cause for great concern," said Mason. "Attracting the country's top students for graduate work is crucial to maintaining Berkeley's excellence."
Talented graduate students help the university lure top faculty and, conversely, top faculty help attract the best graduate students, said Mason. If either half of this equation starts to weaken, the balance is imperiled, she said.
"The additional funding makes us more competitive," said Mason, "and will help us stem the tide of graduate students going to other schools."
The social sciences and humanities have been especially hard hit, she said.
Of the social science graduate students admitted to Berkeley in fall 1999, 47.5 registered. In the fall of 2000, the percentage dropped to 39.2.
Another telling statistic: in 1999, the English department, routinely ranked number one in the country, had only 14 new graduate students that year, compared with 25 in previous years.
While Berkeley's reputation attracts top students, many enroll at other colleges because those schools offer more money. Borrowing from the corporate model, some universities even include signing bonuses as part of their fellowship packages.
Among Berkeley's toughest competitors are the University of Michigan, Stanford, Duke, and other Ivy League schools.
For example, in 1999, Harvard offered nearly all its graduate students $13,000 fellowships, paid teaching assistant jobs, plus additional support in the later years of their degree work. In the same year, Berkeley offered only a handful of multi-year support packages.
Adding to the predicament is the conclusion of funding programs from two private foundations and the high cost of housing in the Bay Area. "Ours is the most expensive campus in the nation for graduate students," Mason said.
But thanks to the cabinet's
initiative, Berkeley is moving to close the gap. The recent funding increase
brings Berkeley's top-of-the-range fellowships to $17,000, compared to
$13,000 in 1999. The additional money also provides 10 new $15,000 stipends
specifically for social science and humanities graduate students.
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