21 Apr 2014

How poor are graduate students?

As a PhD student at UC Davis, I had my tuition forgiven ($10k) and a salary of $18k/year as a teaching or research assistant. I could pay the rent and buy food (and wine!) fairly easily, but then I saw this on the wall at Simon Fraser University:

So, now I am wondering if other PhD students cannot afford to live on their stipends.

This question is not the same as that facing masters students (who seem to be cash cows for universities, i.e., they usually pay fees and get no salary) or undergraduates who are encouraged to study "whatever feels right" at schools that may have great dorm food and no interest in their future careers, debt or knowledge (read this reddit conversation).



  1. My UC Davis stipend was $15,500 guaranteed fall-spring funding, with an optional summer TAship option, bringing the total stipend to about $19,500. I suspect that the lifestyle is still very similar to your grad school days, with some added constraints. It's still possible, but now that smart phones, laptops, and internet access are practically mandatory, it's very difficult to make that money last. The exorbitant cost of books and statistical software led to 90% of my fellow grad students to a life of piracy. And Davis bar prices have certainly gone up :)

  2. At UIUC grad pay (and hours) vary by department. We have cheap housing, so, I think, it's mostly a problem for those with kids.


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