A&S graduate student stipends to increase by up to 7.9%

Following numerous rallies, Graduate Student Council resolutions and pay increases at peer institutions, the College of Arts and Science will raise stipends for graduate students for the 2023-24 academic year.


Amelia Simpson

Alumni Hall, as photographed on Sept. 9, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Amelia Simpson)

Jacob Stoebner, Staff Writer

The College of Arts and Science will increase in graduate student stipends by up to 7.9% beginning in Fall 2023. Vanderbilt previously increased stipends by 10-15% in 2021.

Graduate students in all three divisions of A&S — humanities, natural sciences and social sciences — will receive a stipend increase, according to David Wright, A&S dean of graduate education and research. Stipends for students in the humanities and social sciences will increase from $31,500 to $34,000, approximately a 7.9% increase, and stipends for students in the natural sciences will increase from $33,500 to $35,000, approximately a 4.5% increase. Wright cited the cost of living in Nashville and competitiveness with peer institutions as factors that led to the increase, describing the decision process as “collaborative.”

Graphic depicting College of Arts & Science graduate student stipends from 2016-23. (Hustler Graphics/Lexie Perez) (Lexie Perez)

“After informal discussions with other deans, Dean Greer, the Chief Business Officer and I met to discuss target stipend levels,” Wright said. “The CBO of the college determines the budgetary impact, and then Dean Greer gives the final approval. This sounds fairly linear, but in fact there are many conversations that are involved in setting the precise stipend levels.”

This change comes following student complaints about housing affordability and stipend levels in conjunction with rallies held by Vanderbilt Graduate Workers United. To address the issues of housing affordability, Vanderbilt formed committees to provide recommendations to the university. Graduate Student Council President Kyra Smart, a third-year graduate student, said GSC passed a resolution primarily calling for housing affordability and stipend raises on Dec. 9. She added that it was delivered in person to André Christie-Mizell, Dean of the Graduate School, and emailed to Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Tracey George on Dec. 20. GSC received no response.

Wright said the next step in this process is to equalize pay across all disciplines. 

“We have made steady, significant progress in raising the graduate student stipends over the last seven years,” Wright said. “The College is working to equalize the stipends for all graduate students across disciplines. We expect that the next increase in stipend will put everyone at the same pay-level, regardless of discipline.”

Hannah Thorpe, a first-year doctoral student in cultural anthropology, said the extra money helps account for inflation and local rent increases but still is not enough. 

“It is clear that this school certainly cares about their graduate students, and this is certainly a great start. However, it does not account for cost of living increases,” Thorpe said. “The rent for the new Vanderbilt graduate student housing is around $1,600 a month with fees for 260 square feet, which is simply not affordable even with stipend increases. What people often do not understand is pursuing a PhD is a full time job, so our stipends are our salaries.”

Peer institutions around the country recently announced similar increases in stipend levels shortly after 48,000 graduate students went on strike in the University of California system across the 10 campuses in the state. On Sept. 14, Duke University announced an increase in their PhD stipends from $34,660 to $38,000, a 9.6% increase. The University of Pennsylvania announced on Dec. 12 that its graduate student stipend will increase from $30,547 to $38,000 for the 2023-24 year.