As I noted in my winter campus update, the new union contracts with our academic researchers, postdoctoral scholars, graduate student researchers, and teaching assistants provide important salary increases and expanded benefits to these essential members of our academic workforce. Meeting the financial obligations of these increases is no small challenge, and I know that many of you have a lot of questions. I write today to let you know what steps have been taken to date and what we are still working on. Above all, let me affirm our dedication to ensuring the success of our faculty research enterprise, along with our commitment to providing an excellent educational experience to both our graduate and undergraduate students.
Central campus has set aside $1M in one-time funds to mitigate the salary and benefits cost increases to extramural grants “in progress” for GSRs and postdocs supervised by PIs who are neither able to amend their grant budgets nor to access discretionary funding to make up the shortfall. PIs in need of assistance should solicit their departments first to determine whether there are departmental discretionary funds available. If the departments are unable to contribute, the PI and the department chair should seek assistance from the college/school dean. The dean will make the determination whether to apply to my office for central funding support. Requests from deans for central support should be submitted by April 15, 2023.
Additional costs for TAs in 2022-23 will be covered by previously budgeted salary and benefits cost increases, funded by the central campus. Central campus will also use one-time funds to cover the additional costs for TAs for 2023-24 – about $9M – so that college/school budgets will not be negatively impacted.
The Graduate Division has been authorized to enroll 375 new PhD and MFA students for 2023-24. This is the same number as were enrolled in 2022-23. Graduate programs will receive funds to cover one year of tuition and fees, GSHIP costs, and a 9-month $29,000 stipend for each enrolled student, up to their approved enrollment target. As in past years, these funds will stay with the incoming student cohort and must be expended by the end of 2029-30.
I understand there has been confusion and concern about the enrollment targets for each program. The Graduate Dean used actual enrollments from the past four years to determine program enrollment targets that add up to 375. Programs that can demonstrate they have the means to support additional students have been instructed to seek approval from their college/school deans for any increase in their approved target.
There has also been confusion and concern about how to calibrate admissions offers to achieve the targeted enrollment. I appreciate that this is not a perfect science; furthermore, we are bound by the Council of Graduate Schools April 15th Resolution to provide applicants until April 15 to consider offers of admission that also include financial support, which hinders the ability to make use of waitlists. Programs should work with the Graduate Division to use historical yield data to make a best estimate of the number of offers to send out for this year.
The Graduate Dean’s office has been working with the staff coordinators and faculty advisors within each program. In the last month, they have held two meetings with the coordinators and two meetings with the advisors about the UAW contract changes and the plan for funding PhD and MFA students in 2023-24. Faculty are encouraged to direct their specific questions to these program leaders; if the coordinators and advisors are unable to provide answers, they should roll those queries up to the Graduate Division for resolution.
Working with a template provided by UC San Diego, a collaborative team from Graduate Division, Academic Personnel Office, Employee and Labor Relations, and Information Technology Solutions has developed a comprehensive FAQ about implementation of the new system-wide labor contracts for GSRs, TAs, and postdocs. This website will be updated on a regular basis, so do check it for updates.
Note that the mitigation tactics described thus far apply only through 2023-24. We still need to develop a long-term strategy to attain a new, sustainable model of graduate student funding at UCR. I have charged a working group made up of deans, college/school CFAOs, and faculty Senate leaders to figure out how to allocate resources for graduate students to ensure that we continue to advance the pillars of our mission to engage in distinctive, transformative research and scholarship and to foster a rigorous, engaging, and empowering learning environment for our graduate and undergraduate students. I have asked this group to complete their work by the end of the summer, so that we can put a new model into place for the entering cohort of 2024-25.
One thing we know we must do is to increase revenues to the campus, as dipping into our cash reserves for one-time funds to pay for increased salary and benefits costs is unsustainable. We are working toward this goal by leaning into four initiatives: 1) increasing the average undergraduate credit load, 2) increasing summer course offerings and enrollment, 3) increasing out-of-state enrollment, and 4) increasing master’s degree programs and enrollment. I wrote about some of these initiatives in my fall campus update. Your participation in these efforts, at any level, will help us to generate revenues from the state and from tuition, which we can then use to help support our graduate students. Please reach out to your department chairs and unit heads if you are interested in learning more.
Thank you again for the valuable contributions you make to UCR in your innovative research and creative activities, your inspirational teaching and mentorship, and your generous service activities. I appreciate your patience and support as we address this latest funding challenge, and I welcome your thoughts on how we might turn this challenge into an opportunity to strengthen our position as a public, minority-serving, R1 research institution.