As the spring semester comes to a close, I am writing to provide updates related to COVID-19 and the Graduate Education Task Force. I know these are difficult times for everyone in the campus community. In addition to adjusting to online courses, many of you are unable to access the labs and facilities to complete your work, and many have financial and family concerns. Please know that the Graduate School is committed to helping you and will continue to support you during this time.
Some students and faculty members are wondering how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the work of the Graduate Education Task Force. At the beginning of the spring semester, the provost shared the task force report and charged the Graduate School with developing an implementation plan during the spring semester.
The pandemic and its economic ramifications have presented us with many new challenges in developing an implementation plan, and we have altered aspects of our plan to adapt to this new landscape. The Graduate School remains committed to addressing the issues identified by the task force, including student compensation. We are in the process of completing the implementation report and plan to submit it to the Provost’s Office in May.
Below are updates about the implementation plan and steps the university is taking to address the issues identified by the task force.
The implementation report will contain a plan for the campus to raise graduate stipends in areas where they remain low. The university is committed to providing transition funds to improve stipends in key areas while graduate programs work toward sustainable solutions during the next few years.
In the meantime, the university has taken steps to help graduate students financially. As previously announced by the provost, the Tuition Reduction Benefit (TRB) gap will continue to be covered during summer 2020 and the 2020-21 academic year. Also, the university will be providing central funding for TA and AI salary increases (in an amount equivalent to 2 percent of the current TA/AI salary pool) for the next academic year. Colleges and schools will allocate these funds to help improve equity and elevate graduate student salaries.
This summer, there will be more AI and TA positions available to help with increased online courses. The Graduate School is contributing $1.3 million to support these positions beyond what has been allocated by the university. The Graduate School will be working with colleges and schools to evaluate needs for additional summer support. More information will be provided on this soon.
I recognize that, because of the closures of labs and other facilities, some students will have to extend their graduate studies into subsequent semesters. We are considering provisions to help students in these situations, and I hope to provide more updates soon. In the meantime, the Provost’s Office is working with campus leaders to develop a strategy for reopening labs and key facilities while upholding social distancing practices. Student safety will be the top priority guiding any plans for reopening.
Career Options & Planning
The Graduate School continues to partner with Texas Career Engagement to develop programming to help students plan careers during the pandemic. The Graduate School is also continuing its work through the AAU Ph.D. Education Initiative to inform students of their many career options and help them to successfully navigate a wide variety of career paths. You can view upcoming sessions for graduate students at the Texas Career Engagement website.
Additional updates and announcements will be shared each week to keep you informed. In the meantime, I invite you to visit the Graduate School website and FAQs for current and new information.