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TA Stipends

  • Thread starter stringy
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  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Hello everybody,

I applied to eight graduate schools in mathematics and so far I have received two acceptances. Out of those eight, there are really only four that I'm truly interested in, with the other four being safety schools. Of the two acceptances that I've received so far, one of them is from one of my top four choices.

The problem is, the stipend from that top choice is a little on the low side even though they seem quite enthusiastic about my application. The other university is offering me almost $3000 more per year. Both financial packages include the stipend, full tuition remission, and a health insurance plan. I would have to pay assorted fees at both universities. The costs of living in both of the towns are comparable (low).

My question is: is it common, or an acceptable practice, to use one university's offer as leverage against the other? For instance, "University X is offering me $3000 more per year, but I'd really rather attend your school. Can you match their offer?"

I don't want to burn any bridges with any schools if this is considered rude. I'm going to ask my advisor at my home institution about this, but I thought I'd ask here as well to get a wider range of opinions.

Thanks!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Pengwuino
Gold Member
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I would think it's "rude" (although perfectly acceptable in any other walk of life....) because universities want you to think they're doing you a favor (even though they know better). I'm not sure though... it'll be interesting to see what people think.
 
  • #3
Nabeshin
Science Advisor
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I don't have experience with this kind of stuff, but from what I've heard it's somewhat rare for universities to rescind their admissions (others with more experience can say whether or not this is true in their experiences). If it is true, nothing (that) bad can come of you asking.
 
  • #4
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Also consider the cost of living in both areas. The same dollar amount will take you further in Idaho than it will in New York City.
 
  • #5
Pengwuino
Gold Member
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Also consider the cost of living in both areas. The same dollar amount will take you further in Idaho than it will in New York City.
He stated that he already found out the COL is comparable at both universities.
 
  • #6
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He stated that he already found out the COL is comparable at both universities.
I'm clearly a moron who doesn't read carefully. Please ignore me.
 
  • #7
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Well they could always turn around and say something like "we may not be offering as much money, but we're offering better quality teaching".
 
  • #8
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The more I think about this, the less I want to gamble by doing this. That top choice has active research groups in three fields that I'm interested in, and nearly every other course in their course catalog I'd kill to take.

They also mentioned they'd be nominating me for a fellowship that would basically make up for the smaller stipend. But that's not something that is guaranteed.

Picking your "favorite" grad schools is easy when you're a sophomore or junior surfing the web, but it's hard when you have to make the real decision!
 
  • #9
Choppy
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I wouldn't personally consider it "rude." The word "futile" comes to mind, though. Most of the time they have an established package to offer you on entry and they don't really have any way of deviating from that. The one exception is application for additional scholarships and stipends, which are more-or-less in your court.
 
  • #10
G01
Homework Helper
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Most departments pay all TAs the same salary. Sometimes, TA salaries are the same across the whole university It's just easier on the payroll office that way. A TA is a TA.

Sorry, but I doubt you're a hot enough commodity in their eyes to justify the extra accounting-type work needed to put you in your own pay bracket. They will probably say that they can't do anything about your potential stipend and if you decide not to go there based on that, they will send an acceptance letter to one of the other 300 applicants.
 
  • #11
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My question is: is it common, or an acceptable practice, to use one university's offer as leverage against the other? For instance, "University X is offering me $3000 more per year, but I'd really rather attend your school. Can you match their offer?"
I don't think it will hurt to ask. There is a 95% chance that the answer will be no, because TA stipends are typically set by university policy and sometimes by the state legislature through budgets.

The only situation where you might get an increase is if half the class asks the same question. Also if the difference is crucial for your deciding where to do, it's a good idea to let the university know why. It won't help you, but if the university is seeing that they can't get TA's because of stipends then they have ammunition to lobby the powers that be (including the state legislature) that they need more funding, and this will help the next batch of students.
 
  • #12
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The more I think about this, the less I want to gamble by doing this. That top choice has active research groups in three fields that I'm interested in, and nearly every other course in their course catalog I'd kill to take.
I don't think that there is much of a gamble if you ask politely. One thing that you should realize is that the person you are e-mailing may agree completely that you are underpaid and by pointing out that other schools pay more, you are helping them do something about it.
 
  • #13
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Thanks to everybody for replying. The advice given makes sense.
 
  • #14
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Thanks to everybody for replying. The advice given makes sense.
One other thing is that there is a 95% chance that the department will say sorry, we can't help you.

The only situation were I think that the department would even think of matching the offer is if you aren't the only one that has the issue. If the department admitted twelve people, and three of them politely mentioned that they were considered other options because the stipends were higher, and if it turned out that those three were the strongest candidates, then there would at least been a meeting. What could happen is that department chair taps into discretionary funds for a one-time payment and then lobbies the university to increase tuition stipends across the board.

There are a lot of if's here, and it's extremely unlikely that stars will all align, but you really have nothing to lose. As long as you are polite about it, I think the department would appreciate knowing what the situation is. Also it could help you in the long run. If it becomes obvious that the university is losing students because of stipends, and then the department lobbies this issue when it comes budget time, your future stipends would increase.
 
  • #15
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Which university is stronger in the field you are interested in? It's better to just swallow the wage if it is the stronger institution. Your advisor and research is much more important than $3000.
 

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