Danyel Ferrari, a PhD candidate in Journalism and Media Studies and chair of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT Media and Narrative Committee, made this statement to the Open Hearing on the University’s Tuition, Fees, and Housing and Dining Charges on April 27, 2022.
The majority of Rutgers PhD students are not funded through the entirety of our PhDs. Funding, when available, often ends at three or four years, when we know the average PhD takes five to seven years to complete.
Many departments have been forced to offer “PTL” positions as a solution. Doctoral candidates whose funding has expired and are teaching at the university are still required to register for one research credit per semester while completing their research and dissertation. But the cost of maintaining matriculation at Rutgers goes well beyond research credits alone. PTL grad workers are also required to pay out-of-pocket fees, health insurance, and parking passes that cost ten times what they paid during their funded years. The average cost is $6,341 for each academic year for in-state students. For out-of-state students, the cost can be as much as $7,618.
Often students are only given one PTL course per semester because of limited slots and because funded TAs are now often assigned solo instructor positions. Each PTL course pays roughly $5,200 per semester. This means a doctoral candidate will spend more than an entire semester of income on the cost of maintaining enrollment while completing their dissertation.
Without full funding packages, these doctoral students have no way to pay for their rent, groceries, childcare, medical bills, and other life expenses. Our research suffers as we are forced to take on more work to pay the bills, delaying timelines to graduation and driving promising scholars out of academia.
We need TA and GA funding for all doctoral students and candidates that matches the actual timelines of completion. These timelines to graduation have already been slowed by the effects of COVID, and while I was lucky, many grads have received either no additional or insufficient funding to help make up for it.
At the very least, PhD candidates who are working toward dissertation while teaching Rutgers students as PTLs need to have tuition and fees remitted. We teach a great number of undergrad courses. Without this help from the university, our doctoral students, the students they teach, and the research they do all suffer.
We should not be paying Rutgers to work at Rutgers.