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Minimum funding levels – annual review process

Through the Graduate Student Relations Committee (GSRC), a committee co-chaired by the Graduate Student Association (GSA) President and the Associate Vice-President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA), and that includes graduate students and university staff, the University annually reviews changes to student costs (e.g., tuition, shelter, cost of living) and makes a recommendation to senior administration on how student support should change year-over-year. Typically, the year over year change in support that students receive as a Teaching Assistantship (TA), or a Research Assistantship (RA) matches the change in minimum PhD funding.  The rates are updated annually each winter term, and details are listed on the Graduate Teaching Assistantships (TA) and Graduate Research Assistantships (RA) web page as well as the Minimum funding web page.

What are the principles that motivate financial support for graduate students?

  • The University recognizes that graduate students are critical to the University’s missions of teaching and research. ​
  • Simultaneously, graduate students are achieving their own academic, personal, and professional goals through their studies at the University. ​
  • The University’s motivations for providing financial support to graduate students include: ​
    • Making graduate studies financially possible for students who, absent this support, would not be able to pursue their research degrees;​
    • Acknowledging the contributions graduate students make to the University’s teaching and research;
    • Facilitating transformative scholarship and research on issues that despite their potential benefits to society, may not otherwise be investigated.
  • The University is committed to transparency for students in both the University-based support they receive and the University-controlled costs they incur during their studies.
  • The University acknowledges students’ agency in planning and assessing the feasibility for graduate studies at Waterloo.
  • The University is working towards expanding and diversifying the financial supports for equity-deserving groups with a goal of removing systemic barriers.
  • The University is aware that students may experience short-term emergency circumstances for which the University may provide “financial safety nets” through bursaries and loans (see financial need funding web page).

What data inform the support levels for graduate students?

  • Institutional Analysis and Planning develops an internal, year-over-year estimate of a student focused consumer price index (CPI), based on:
    • Year-over-year changes in international and domestic tuition for master’s and PhD students and the net impact on those cohorts.
    • Year-over-year changes in cost of living in Waterloo Region.
    • Year-over-year changes in housing costs in Waterloo Region.
  • These year-over-year changes are also evaluated relative to previous estimates (3-5 years) of cost and support changes to potentially correct for previous years’ errors.
  • Regularly, (most recently in 2019) the University’s funding levels are compared to peer programs / institutions.
  • The changes in support for graduate students are also practically bound by:
    • The financial well-being of the University;
    • The agreed-upon changes in support for other University cohorts – including faculty and staff.

What is the annual review timeline?

The review of minimum funding levels happens annually, using the following as framework of activity:

  • Introductory meeting – typically mid-November
    • Provide foundational information;
    • Introduce and agree upon principles;
    • Determine timelines and process.
  • Meeting two – December
    • Initial data presentation on CPI calculations;
    • Initial limits on recommended changes in support levels;
  • Between early December and early/mid-January
    • GSA presents data to Council, receives feedback
  • Meeting 3 – mid-January
    • GSRC meets to receive GSA feedback;
    • Initial recommendations revisited based on GSA feedback;
    • Final recommendation reached.
  • After meeting 3
    • Recommendation sent to Provost;
  • Mid-winter term (typically early February)
    • Provost considers recommendation and establishes rates for the following fiscal year (which begins May 1 of each year).
    • Memo goes out to staff and faculty supporting grad students with new rates and notice posted on the minimum funding web page and included in the graduate student e-news.

If you are interested in additional information about the annual review process or have questions, please contact the Graduate Student Association (GSA) President and/or contact the Associate Vice-President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA).