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Doctoral Long-Term Financial Hardship Assessment Process

Dear Department Heads, Graduate Officers, Administrative Officers, and Graduate Administrators,

In spring 2019, the school deans agreed to develop and implement new policies and practices to alleviate financial insecurity that some PhD graduate students may face during their academic careers. That commitment resulted in the following:

I write to share the processes related to the last two of these: support for doctoral students who may be experiencing long-term financial distress and an updated process for petitioning for non-resident status. Although there will be a centralized application, this process will involve academic departments and programs in the assessment process to help determine need, the outcome of these applications, and financial support as appropriate.

Doctoral long-term financial hardship assessment process
In 2018, I asked every department to enter information about both MIT and non-MIT support for each student into the Graduate Appointment Portal (GAP), including students on non-resident status, as a standard practice. (See email from November 5, 2018).

Beginning September 1, 2020, the OGE, in partnership with graduate administrators, will use GAP information (including both MIT and external support) to identify doctoral students at financial risk. In consultation with the department or program, OGE may encourage students to have a financial assessment conducted by Student Financial Services (SFS). Students also have the option to request a financial assessment on their own.

A new Doctoral Long-Term Financial Hardship Assessment Form (https://sfs.mit.edu/doctoral-student-hardship-funding/) will be used to evaluate recurring financial hardships arising from ongoing circumstances that may impact a doctoral student’s long-term academic progress, health, and well-being. Applications are being accepted for funding to be awarded after September 1, 2020. Questions regarding the form may be directed to sfs@mit.edu.

The information that the student provides on the assessment form will be used by counselors from SFS to help departments and school deans assess need, and if awarded, determine an individualized level of support for the student. It is important to note that the award of financial resources will be based on the assumption that the standard stipend amount is meant to cover typical living expenses for a single graduate student. In cases where a student receives a full stipend, it is expected they would only receive assistance under demonstrated extreme and unexpected financial hardship. Support in other cases will be based on the student’s unique circumstances, including:

  • Stipend level other income and assets;
  • Household financial situation; and
  • Number of dependents.

Once the level of need is evaluated, that information will be reviewed and resolved by the student’s school and department or program, with assistance as necessary from the Provost’s Office.

In some cases, students will not receive MIT funds if it is determined that the needs are not critical or that other resources can be utilized to fulfill the need. Examples of cases where long-term hardship is not applicable include:

  • Long-term financial hardship assistance is not meant to circumnavigate existing departmental policies and/or support that is well-defined by current DLC policy.
  • Students who are not making satisfactory progress towards the completion of their degree requirements (special consideration is possible on a case by case basis for  those with extraordinary circumstances or beginning their graduate student career).
  • Students on leave from MIT. (Students must be registered in residence to be eligible.)

Please note that beginning on July 1, graduate students with children may apply for a dependent care grant of $2,000 – $4,000, based on the number of children they are supporting. These funds will be included in the financial assessment.

Funding requests related to Covid-19 for summer 2020 will continue to be managed through the Graduate Student Short-Term Emergency Form process found here https://oge.mit.edu.

Update to non-resident status petition process
As an additional component of meeting the school deans’ commitment, OGE is launching a parallel process to identify students for whom non-residential doctoral research status presents a financial hardship.

The standard petition form has been revised to include questions regarding sources of financial support that a student has available, if non-resident status is being requested. (The new form will be available on or around July 1, 2020. Information about the non-resident policy may be found at https://oge.mit.edu/gpp/degrees/thesis/nonres/.)

If the approval will put the student at financial risk, OGE will bring the petition to the attention of the student’s school dean.

It may be determined that it is not advisable for the student to be approved for non-resident status. In that case, in order for the student to maintain residential status, funds will need to be identified by the School, in partnership with the department/program and with assistance as necessary from the Provost’s Office. Questions about the non-resident petition process may be directed to Patricia Glidden in OGE at pglidden@mit.edu.

I want to thank the school deans and the provost for making the commitment to address our doctoral students’ financial issues, as they ultimately impact the well-being and academic success of our students. I also want to thank, in advance, the staff in the academic departments/programs, school deans’ offices and SFS, who will partner with OGE staff in this important endeavor.

Sincerely,

Ian

Ian A. Waitz, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education and Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics


Dear Doctoral Students,

In spring 2019, the school deans agreed to develop and implement new policies and practices to alleviate financial insecurity that some PhD graduate students may face during their academic careers. That commitment resulted in the following:

The new process for identifying doctoral students in long-term financial distress for the 2020-2021 academic year can be found here: https://sfs.mit.edu/doctoral-student-hardship-funding/.

Applications are being accepted for funding to be awarded after September 1, 2020. (Please note: Funding requests related to Covid-19 for summer 2020 should be directed to the Graduate Student Short-Term Emergency Form process here: https://engage.mit.edu/submitter/form/start/390335.)

Application review process
Long-term hardship assistance will be based on the student’s unique circumstances, including:

  • Stipend level and other assets/income;
  • Household financial situation; and
  • Number of dependents.

The information the student provides in the assessment will be used by counselors from Student Financial Services (SFS) to help departments and school deans determine an individualized level of support, if awarded, for the student. Note: the level of support will be based on the assumption that the standard stipend amount is meant to cover typical living expenses for a single graduate student. Cases where a student already receives a full stipend may be reviewed, but would only receive additional funding in extreme and extenuating circumstances.

Please note that students must be registered in residence to be eligible.

Update to non-resident status petition process
As an additional component of meeting the school deans’ commitment, OGE is launching a parallel process to identify students for whom non-residential doctoral research status presents a financial hardship.

The standard petition form has been revised to include questions regarding sources of financial support that a student has available, if non-resident status is being requested. (The new form will be available on or around July 1, 2020. Information about the non-resident policy may be found at https://oge.mit.edu/gpp/degrees/thesis/nonres/.)

If the approval will put the student at financial risk, OGE will bring the petition to the attention of the student’s school dean.

It may be determined that it is not advisable for the student to be approved for non-resident status. In that case, in order for the student to maintain residential status, funds will need to be identified by the School, in partnership with the department/program and with assistance as necessary from the Provost’s Office.

These changes were made possible by a comprehensive process involving student surveys, data analysis, and engagement with community members. I want to thank the school deans and the provost for making the commitment to address our doctoral students’ financial issues, as they ultimately impact the well-being and academic success of our students.

Sincerely,

Ian

Ian A. Waitz, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education and Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics