Yesterday, the University of Chicago announced new funding guidelines for Ph.D. students in humanities and social sciences. These reforms will take two years to fully roll out and will be made available retroactively to all humanities and social sciences doctoral students who enrolled since summer 2016. Furthermore, exceptions may be made for students enrolled earlier on a case-by-case basis. Currently, Chicago funds these doctoral students for up to six years. The new provisions will guarantee full funding to all students in good academic standing who have enrolled since summer 2016. All doctoral students in these departments will receive a $31,000 stipend as well as health insurance and full tuition coverage.
However, there are strings attached. The university will be setting a cap on the number of students these affected departments will be able to teach. Accordingly, new students will not be allowed to enroll until others leave. (Hopefully with their Ph.D. degrees!) The idea here is to address the late-stage attrition of students who drop out after eight or nine years with no degree. Provost Daniel Diermeier said this “has to stop” and added the university “isn’t so much worried about the average as the tail.”
A number of schools have recently announced efforts to boost graduate student financial aid. Chicago’s latest move should not only make these doctoral programs more attractive to prospective applicants from a financial aid perspective, but also from the timeline and attrition perspectives as well. Exactly how each individual department chooses to keep students on track to dissertation completion so they can admit new applicants will remain to be seen.