Creating the Extraordinary Student Experience : Office of Student Life

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2020 Graduate Compensation and Benefits Committee Recommendations

Posted: July 22, 2020

2019-2020 Graduate Compensation and Benefits Committee (GCBC) Annual Report & Stipend Recommendations for 2020-2023

Duties and Responsibilities

The Graduate Associate Compensation and Benefits Committee (GCBC) is a standing committee of the University Senate at The Ohio State University as defined in the University Faculty Rules, Chapter 3335-5-48.18.

The following are the duties and responsibilities of the GCBC, as defined under Chapter 3335-5- 48.18. (B) of the University Faculty Rules.

  1. Study the adequacy and other attributes of the university's policies and provisions including stipends, outside professional services, and supplemental compensation.

  2. Conduct research and provide advice on economic support of graduate associates, professional development, quality and design of benefit programs, and appointment terms.

  3. Make recommendations to the university senate, the graduate council, the graduate school, and the office of academic affairs as appropriate.

Overview

The Graduate Compensation and Benefits Committee (GCBC) was quite active in addition to our annual stipend and benefits evaluation. We met multiple times formally and informally to discuss a variety of policy changes that we thought would provide more robust financial, institutional, and support for graduate students. This year, graduate, international, and parenting students made their voices heard for us to advocate for a new Multi-family housing facility. With the help of USG, IPC, Student Life, the ODI and many others, our members helped establish the Parenting and Pregnant Student Working Group to comprehensively look at the issues facing these students and begin to make a plan of how to provide more support. With the help of the Provost, Administration & Planning, Student Life, and Business & Finance, GCBC is committed to establishing an sponsor group to move forward with a new multifamily housing facility. As graduate students still need a central, independent resource for solving conflicts and giving guidance on resources, we are brought forward a proposal to institute a Graduate Ombudsperson. With that impetus, we are excited to continue our work with the Provost, the Office of Academic Affairs, and the University Staff Advisory Committee to establish an Office of Ombudspersons where such a position could be housed. With the help of the Graduate School, GCBC collaborated with the Graduate Council to establish a specific Graduate Student Emergency Fund so those students most in need can be supported. The remainder of this report will walk through the analysis, considerations, and recommendations for increasing the current minimum stipend and for taking other administrative actions that will benefit Graduate Associates throughout The Ohio State University.

Executive Summary

Achieving Excellence in Graduate Access, Affordability, and Academic Competitiveness

This report presents a review of the results of a four year period in which the Graduate Administrative Associates (GAA), Research Associates (GRA), and Teaching Associates (GTA) minimum stipend at The Ohio State University increased from $13,500 in 2015-2016 to $17,280 in 2019-2020 in the face of increasing costs of attendance and costs of living in the City of Columbus. In gathering and analyzing the data contained in this report, the intention of GCBC was to evaluate current academic competitiveness and identify how to achieve the stipend that would result in our desired level of competitiveness and a livable wage. These recommendations evolved as COVID-19 began impacting graduate students and it became evident that further resources would be necessary.

Based on the attached benchmarking study conducted by OSU’s Human Resources department,one can see that the increases over the past 4 years have resulted in Ohio State increasing its academic competitiveness for the minimum stipend levels of GAAs (6th out of 8 to 5th out of 7), GRAs (8th out of 14 to 6th out of 13), and GTAs (8th out of 14 to 6th out of 13). This is increase is true for the mean stipend levels GAAs (6th out of 8 to 5th out of 7), GRAs (10th out of 14 to 7thout of 13), and GTAs (11th out of 14 to 10th out of 13). as well We must recognize that part of this perceived increase may have been as a result of the drop-off of data from one comparison institution. While moving up a spot in a category is progress, we are still not at the competitiveness level we would like to be. We believe, as FCBC has also voiced for faculty compensation, that Ohio State graduate stipend levels should be in the top 3rd of benchmark institutions. We must continue to close the gaps between Ohio State and the schools above it if we are to maintain Ohio State’s competitive edge in attracting and retaining the best possiblegraduate students to its programs. Although OSU’s stipend rank has remained generally constant,recent increases in minimum stipends at peer institutions threaten to undermine the university’sability to attract top students to its programs. This is especially evident in regard to graduate teaching as Ohio State has dropped in GTA stipend ranks from 8th to 10th putting us in the bottom 4th of benchmark institutions. With the recent emphasis at the university on the importance of teaching and through the Michael V. Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning, Ohio State must take the necessary steps to improving the quality of life for current GTAs that may be put under more pressure with COVID-19 and making stipend levels more attractive for high caliber GTA recruits. Whether one approaches this issue from the perspective of institutional competitiveness or a concern with an equitable compensation that meets the living wage, the time for another meaningful increase to the minimum stipend has come.

Increasing costs--including rising student health fees, parking fees and rents--have seriously reduced the ability of students to maintain themselves with the minimum stipend. In 2018-19, of 13 peer institutions, Ohio State had the 5th highest Student Health Fee for funded students (portion paid by the student). While six institutions do not charge GAs for their health insurance, we have seen steady incremental increases at Ohio State brought include a $39 median increase this year. Although perhaps not specifically considered a “cost of attendance”, campus parking is a requirement for many graduate associates. The minimum that a graduate student can pay for central campus area surface parking (C- lot) is now $405 (CampusParc, 2020)1.

Minimum parking and other fees borne by graduate associates now consume more than 8% of the minimum stipend ($1439.20). Apartment rent costs in Columbus are reported to be rising by about 4% each year, with the average rent in 2019 being $929 (Ramos, 2019)2.A conservative estimate of the annual cost of living in Columbus for a single adult is $23,836 (Glasmeier, 2020)3. If a graduate student receiving the current minimum stipend were to find a full-time position earning the livable wage for the three months not covered by a GA position, the student would still need to borrow at least $2000 a year simply to cover basic costs to survive.

In an address to the Council of Graduate Students, President Drake termed Graduate Associates“crucial to the quality of our university”. We believe further investment in this crucial component of our institutional quality is necessary. We recommend that the university make a 3- year commitment to increasing the minimum stipend for Graduate Associates: In the first year, a stipend increase of $1500 ($18,780 in total) in order to achieve our academic competitiveness standards and a tuition and fee waiver increase of $1000 to cover the Student Activity Graduate Fee, Student Union Fee, Recreational Fee, Health Insurance. The following “Other Student Fees”would ideally be included as well if assessed by the graduate program and/or college in which the Graduate Associate, Graduate Fellow, or Graduate Trainee is enrolled: Equipment Fees, Field Practicum, Clinical Fees, Program Fees, Technology Fees and Distance Learning Fee; the COTA Fee and Annual Student Legal Services would still have to be paid from the GAs’ netpersonal income per the contracts of those fees. The following two years would include a stipend increase of $1000 per year in order to ensure that we maintain our competitive positioning and eventually provide graduate students with a livable wage.

We would like to acknowledge the help of The Graduate School, The Office of Human Resources, and the Office of Academic Affairs, all of whom assisted in obtaining the necessary data required to make our determinations, and without whose assistance we would not have been able to fulfill our mission.

Recommendations

  1. Raise minimum stipend by $1,500 in first year, then increase it by $1000 the next 2 years.

  2. Include all possible fees to be covered by tuition and fee authorization, including any Distance Education fee and departmental Technology Fee as to alleviate the after-tax burden on Graduate Associates net income.

  3. Create process to identify graduate students whose research, practicum, or degree progress has been impacted by COVID-19 whether through direct access restrictions, mental or physical health complications, or other reasonable impacts. Allocate central funding to ensure those students can graduate without an additional financial burden.

  4. Create Executive Sponsor Group to progress planning for a new graduate student and multi-family housing facility.

  5. Contract with external consultants to perform a salary evaluation for graduate associates across programs internal to Ohio State and identify any inequities similar to the report the Faculty Compensation and Benefits Committee completed this year.

Please see full analysis in attached PDF.