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 Post subject: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 10:56 pm
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Hola forum, long time no see

Gradschool hasn't been kind to my free time but I started working on a little side project, for reasons that will become very apparent by looking at U Hawaii's stipend data, and thought the info would be useful to the rest of the forum. At the very least, its info that is frequently overlooked but I would have liked to have access to it when applying to schools

So here's what I did: Using gradschoolshopper I collected the average stipend data for RA and TA which the university gives to the AIP per their academic year. Then, I used the ACCRA Cost of Living Index from C2ER (Council for Community and Economic Research) to weight these stipends based on location. The CLI is generated such that a value of 100 is considered the national average so the first thing I did was weight every stipend by the National Average. I've got a link to the spreadsheet I'm using at the bottom and you can find the weighted values by national average in the column titled "Weighted Stipend by National Average TA/RA". So, the proper way to read the values from this column is, for example

- Duke University claims an average stipend for their TA as \$27,730
- Duke University is in Durham, North Carolina which has a CLI of 90.60
- Therefore, their stipend value in an Average US city (with CLI of 100) would be the equivalent of receiving a \$30,607 stipend.

Alternatively,
- Boston University claims an average stipend for their TA as \$19,300
- Boston University is in Boston, Massachusetts which has a CLI of 137.20
- Therefore, their stipend value in an Average US city (with CLI of 100) would be the equivalent of receiving a \$14,067 stipend.

So the values in the "Weighted Stipend by National Average" normalize all the stipends and make it easier to compare the values objectively. Since Honolulu has the highest CLI number, I also found all of the stipend values as weighted according to Honolulu's CLI, so for example, Rice University and their Average stipend of \$26,600 will spend in Houston like \$38,761 will spend in Honolulu.

I also, just for shits and giggles, pulled the federal poverty line and compared all of the stipend values via a percent difference to calculate a "Proximity to Poverty Line" value. Since the Federal poverty line is the same for all the 48 contiguous US states, except for Hawaii and Alaska, the ordering from best to worst plays out differently that it does based on CLI. I would argue that the CLI relationship is probably a better metric of financial support than the PLP.

In terms of using this data, I would strongly recommend that if/when you get an offer from a number of schools, take their stipend offers and compare them AFTER factoring in the cost of living for the region. I speak from experience when I say that no matter how good the faculty is, or how interesting and strong their research is, you will struggle to be productive and a dedicated hard worker if you are constantly dealing with money problems.

Stipend_Data.xls
Stipend_Data.numbers

[Click the Image for full size PDF]

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 11:30 pm
 Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2012 2:06 pm View Posts (62)

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This looks cool.

You have SUNY Buffalo twice in the spreadsheet.

Not sure if CUNY doesn't provide the data, but you don't have the CUNY graduate center (some of the CUNY schools associated with that will have a very high standard of living though)

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 12:50 am
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microacg wrote:
This looks cool.

You have SUNY Buffalo twice in the spreadsheet.

Not sure if CUNY doesn't provide the data, but you don't have the CUNY graduate center (some of the CUNY schools associated with that will have a very high standard of living though)

Unfortunately, a number of schools don't provide their data to the AIP so if it isn't on the list, Gradschoolshopper didn't have it. I managed to find data for about 5 schools that didn't give their data to the AIP by visiting their webpages. If you happen to have the data for CUNY graduate center I can add it in.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 9:15 am
 Joined: Sat Aug 29, 2009 8:20 am View Posts (91)

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Thanks for that, I can see how much effort is needed to compile such a table.

I can see that almost all of the universities are around the 20,000.
[17,000-23,000].

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:50 am
 Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2011 3:48 pm View Posts (6)

Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2011 3:48 pm
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A very nice table indeed! I'd done some comparisons between the universities I'm choosing between, but hadn't taken it this far.

It would appear that there is some inconsistency in how schools report data. The numbers in AIP match the guaranteed funding I was offered, but for two of the three I checked, it is for the academic year while the third is for 11 months. Since the two schools said that summer funding was usually/always available and provided another 30%-40% it can make a big difference. Of course, this was easy for me to change in your lovely table, but I just wanted to mention that for others who use this when choosing where to apply. It is certainly a good place to start, but make sure you do a bit of research to see if you can find the terms the schools you're interested in offer.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 11:55 am
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The two examples you used to illustrate this idea are very misleading. The Duke number you claim is clearly for 12 months (as from here: http://www.phy.duke.edu/graduate/admiss ... ancial.php) whereas the Boston University figure is for 9 months. I know from my offer there that BU guarantees to all TAs/RAs another ~9700 in summer funding, for an actual 12 month total of 29k. Without verifying what time periods these stipends are for, this chart may not be very accurate.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 12:21 pm
 Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm View Posts (2297)User Weight = 11.40

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Absolutely, it appears that some of the schools list their 12 month stipend while others list the 9 month. Cornell, for example, lists the 9 months salary but after you factor in a summer TA or RA you're looking at just around 30k for 12 months.

Not to take away from the work it took to compile this data (thank you!) and how useful it is, and the main point is a very good one. The numbers here aren't self-consistent, however.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:11 pm
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there might be a way to average the data per month too. but I know unless you have some fellowships or are attending a top-5 program the ratio of payment to costs for graduate students is very much the same everywhere and the differences are not noticeable.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 3:34 am
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Hmm, well, if you're taking more accurate numbers, I think the average for UC Irvine is at least 21.5k per 9 months (and they give 5k for summer if you're TAing or taking classes I think). For research, it's 21.5k + 9.6k (research assistants get paid more during the summer as an irvine policy or maybe UC policy), or something like that (the first number might be more or less). These were the numbers they gave us during the visiting day.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:26 am
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grae313 wrote:
Absolutely, it appears that some of the schools list their 12 month stipend while others list the 9 month. Cornell, for example, lists the 9 months salary but after you factor in a summer TA or RA you're looking at just around 30k for 12 months.

Not to take away from the work it took to compile this data (thank you!) and how useful it is, and the main point is a very good one. The numbers here aren't self-consistent, however.

As far as I am aware, School's were suppose to report their 9-month TA and RA stipend to the AIP and because I was concerned about this issue, I double checked as many of the values on Gradschoolshopper as I could with departmental webpages (at least of those who quote values on their school page) and AIP results are consistent with 9-month values. For example,

Where you will note that they say that their 9-month stipend is also supplemented with Summer research stipends. In fact, so far as I can tell, most schools follow this system of quoting a 9-month stipend and then providing some sort of optional summer pay as well.

Although, since many schools don't publish their stipend data (or at least I couldn't find them) there likely are a few schools that gave 12-month values or included supplemental income into their figures. I've contacted the AIP to try to get their take on this question but they have yet to respond. Regardless, the only really piece of the data I provided that should be of any interest to the forum members here is the COLI information so they have a more objective way of comparing stipend values. I.E you get 5 offers and presumably you will know what the school is offering in the way of finances, at which point you can use the COLI data to compare.

The rest of the data is only really significant to University of Hawaii students since, as you can see, we are paid ridiculously lower than every other major University in the US and we needed some numbers to demonstrate this to our department heads. In fact, the majority (if not all) first year students had to take out student loans just to have enough money for food/groceries. I suspect we are unique among all graduate programs in this respect. GO Hawaii!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 10:20 am
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pqortic wrote:
there might be a way to average the data per month too. but I know unless you have some fellowships or are attending a top-5 program the ratio of payment to costs for graduate students is very much the same everywhere and the differences are not noticeable.

Hahaha this is so not true. That's exactly what this chart is showing. I buy whatever I want... I bought a frickin' house. Other people have to pinch pennies. You're constantly stating things like they are fact that are just wrong.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 12:03 pm
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You bought a frickin' house? I don't even

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 1:13 pm
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grae313 wrote:
pqortic wrote:
there might be a way to average the data per month too. but I know unless you have some fellowships or are attending a top-5 program the ratio of payment to costs for graduate students is very much the same everywhere and the differences are not noticeable.

Hahaha this is so not true. That's exactly what this chart is showing. I buy whatever I want... I bought a frickin' house. Other people have to pinch pennies. You're constantly stating things like they are fact that are just wrong.

so you are saying that in one place they pay the graduate students to buy houses while in other places they only pay them to rent. what kinda stupid logic is this? it's like some schools just want to give away their money for no reason or like a graduate student can buy a house and save money and another graduate student with the same skills graduate with almost empty hands.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 1:38 pm
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For the record, I've enough money to buy a house here in Davis too (whose 9 month TA is listed above), though that's on a fellowship (and my adviser is pretty generous with summer stipends). Costs of living in different areas of the country vary extraordinarily. By the way, awesome graphic, happyquark, and good to hear from you again.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 1:52 pm
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bfollinprm wrote:
For the record, I've enough money to buy a house here in Davis too, though that's on a fellowship (and my adviser is pretty generous with summer stipends). Costs of living in different areas of the country vary extraordinarily. By the way, awesome graphic, happyquark, and good to hear from you again.

before taking side and pointing exception here and there, read the post and consider the situation for all. besides, my response is sarcastic.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 2:00 pm
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While the data compiled by HappyQuark should not be the
primary criterion upon which you select a graduate school,
he raises an important point that it is not the absolute
dollar amount of the offer, but rather whether the stipend
will be sufficient to live on in the area that is the important
criterion. In addition to the formal metrics, it is very
experiences - both whether they can afford to live on just
their stipends AND how they live (shared housing, single
apartments, or able to buy their own home).

In regards to the specific data compiled: most departments
will report the stipend for the academic year, as requested
by AIP. However, many of us feel that this is an unfortunate
metric, as the academic year stipend is set by University
Administrators, and may not appear competitive within the
field. To compensate, our offers often include additional
fellowships (a few thousand as a "signing bonus" for example)
and a higher summer RA stipend (which is set by the department,
not the school). Thus, the annual salary may be significantly
higher than reported in gradschoolshopper. Also, the AIP
data is the average stipend - some schools have a well defined
salary scale for RA appointments while others are at the
whim of the PI (I've heard of annual salary differences of
up to \$7K in one department, which means that the student
in the next office might be making 1.5 times your RA salary).

Nonetheless, it is also important to remember that no one
should expect to be rich as a graduate student (fame and
fortune may come later, though, if you pick the right
research project!). Your stipend should be sufficient such
that you are not required to take out additional student
loans if you live a modest lifestyle (no first class tickets
to the Alps for a ski vacation, etc). Beyond that, it is
the other attributes of a school that should be given the
most weight while making your decision as to which school
is the right one for you.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 2:13 pm
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bfollinprm wrote:
For the record, I've enough money to buy a house here in Davis too (whose 9 month TA is listed above), though that's on a fellowship (and my adviser is pretty generous with summer stipends). Costs of living in different areas of the country vary extraordinarily. By the way, awesome graphic, happyquark, and good to hear from you again.

You mean to say you have enough money to pay the mortgage if you were to buy a house or am I missing something here?

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 2:38 pm
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blighter wrote:
You mean to say you have enough money to pay the mortgage if you were to buy a house or am I missing something here?

I thought this was what "buying a house" means, even for "real people" (i.e. not graduate students)! I can't imagine very many people just buying an entire house outright!

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 2:54 pm
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You are forgetting trust fund babies who can just buy houses straight up!

@grae, do you live in the house you buy? Do you also rent part of it out to help pay for mortgage or something? HOW do you manage it (what exactly is your stipend total?!?!)?

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 3:16 pm
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I don't know why this is so crazy to everyone:

The cost of a house in the US (on average) is \$170,000. Current 30 year mortgage rates are less than 4%. Assuming a 3.8% effective rate, we have the total cost over 30 years being
170,000*exp(30r) = 530,000 That makes a yearly cost of 17800, or a monthly mortgage payment of \$1500. That's for the average house, and some places (like here in the Sacramento suburbs) the cost is substantially lower--\$120,000 (~\$1050/month) isn't out of the ordinary for a 2-3 bedroom home. No doubt one would share that with a friend or significant other (most homeowners aren't single); and thus my hypothetical mortgage is significantly less than the rent for a single room in LA, San Fran, San Diego, NYC, or Boston. The main barrier to home ownership is closing costs on the mortgage, which can run \$10,000 or so in taxes and fees, and whatever down payment the issuing bank requires of you (which depends on your credit, and can be as much as 10-20% of the value of the house). Sometimes you can get special loans to cover even those costs, or if you've been out of college for a while (like me) your savings (or a loan from your parents, etc) might be able to absorb the upfront cost.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 4:16 pm
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I didn't buy the house outright, I have a 15-year mortgage and will either rent the house out when I leave or sell it. I live there and rent out the remaining two bedrooms for income. It is not at all unusual for grad students to buy a house here, and most do it with a spouse or significant other (it's really a two-income endeavor).

UC Berkeley and Cornell offered me the same stipend (~30k per year), but taking into account the cost of living, Berkeley would have to offer over \$50k per year to provide the same quality of living / disposable income that I get in Ithaca on \$30k (pre tax). I don't really buy "whatever I want," of course, that was hyperbole. What I meant to say is that I do not have to be careful with my money. I can go out when I want, eat out when I want, travel for the most part when I want... yet myself and many of my friends were still saving money at a rate of \$10k per year. I personally decided to put those savings into a house. That said, once I have a nice television, game console, and kickass gaming PC, I don't really care for buying things besides food, alcohol, and a plane ticket back home to see my parents every now and then.

Meanwhile, the offers at places like U Washington and UCSB are much lower compared to the cost of living. Grad students have to look for the cheapest housing and be careful how often they eat out. They will not be saving money.

Cornell is a private institution with a fair amount of money in a location where it is not expensive to live. Is it so outrageous to believe that I might get paid more there, especially in terms of cost of living, than at a public school in a very expensive city?

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 4:18 pm
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bfollinprm wrote:
I don't know why this is so crazy to everyone:

The cost of a house in the US (on average) is \$170,000. Current 30 year mortgage rates are less than 4%. Assuming a 3.8% effective rate, we have the total cost over 30 years being
170,000*exp(30r) = 530,000 That makes a yearly cost of 17800, or a monthly mortgage payment of \$1500. That's for the average house, and some places (like here in the Sacramento suburbs) the cost is substantially lower--\$120,000 (~\$1050/month) isn't out of the ordinary for a 2-3 bedroom home. No doubt one would share that with a friend or significant other (most homeowners aren't single); and thus my hypothetical mortgage is significantly less than the rent for a single room in LA, San Fran, San Diego, NYC, or Boston. The main barrier to home ownership is closing costs on the mortgage, which can run \$10,000 or so in taxes and fees, and whatever down payment the issuing bank requires of you (which depends on your credit, and can be as much as 10-20% of the value of the house). Sometimes you can get special loans to cover even those costs, or if you've been out of college for a while (like me) your savings (or a loan from your parents, etc) might be able to absorb the upfront cost.

Don't forget taxes... I pay 5 or 6k per year in property/city/school taxes :'(

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:22 pm
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bfollinprm wrote:
The cost of a house in the US (on average) is \$170,000. Current 30 year mortgage rates are less than 4%. Assuming a 3.8% effective rate, we have the total cost over 30 years being 170,000*exp(30r) = 530,000 That makes a yearly cost of 17800, or a monthly mortgage payment of \$1500.

LOL! Actually, the mortgage on a \$170,000 house at 3.8% will be \$792.13 per month, about half the \$1500 you're estimating, according to a mortgage calculator:
http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/mor ... lator.aspx

I'm going to guess you've never been shopping for a house and probably don't know much about interest rates.

You assumed that the buyer would pay nothing for 30 years, and then suddenly pay the mortgage off as a lump sum, using money that had been collected over the 30 years (but which didn't collect interest). This is an assumption of "heads you win, tails I lose" from the point of view of the home buyer.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 7:34 pm
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You're right I did... Don't judge me, I'm studying for finals and my brain is shot.

You're absolutely right, my numbers seemed a bit high--I actually did do a little mortgage shopping recently, and I recalled lower numbers than the ones I was calculating. I guess Amortization calculators really do have a point. Regardless, the numbers I worked out are (probably) roughly correct anyway, since I (1) neglected taxes, and (2) the usual HOA fees.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 7:45 pm
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but in general, this buying real state should not be factored in choosing graduate schools at all. remember at your phd, you will still be a student and will have a student life although you may be able to save money by the time you graduate. not everyone would have a 15 year mortgage and not everyone would agree mortgaging a house like that is a wise thing to do given the student income.

I think grae is just trying to impress others by making stuff up about her income and life style. as astroprof said you should not expect to be a "rich" graduate student.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 10:53 pm
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pqortic wrote:
I think grae is just trying to impress others by making stuff up about her income and life style. as astroprof said you should not expect to be a "rich" graduate student.

Basically you're saying flat out grae is a liar because she is "making stuff up"? I totally agree one does not become a graduate student to be rich, in fact it is the wrong career path to seek if one is looking to make money. But having lived in the Ithaca area, I know that the stipend of ~32K/annum that Cornell offers is way more than enough for people to live a very, very comfortable lifestyle. Rent can be very cheap (600 for a decent place is quite common, and if one is willing to share, it can drop to even 400), and the cost of living is really quite low. This situation is probably not the norm, but I think the way you're showing throwing aspersions to her character is totally uncalled for. You should have verified with other Cornell graduate students what grae is claiming, before throwing down the gaunlet of what you think should be the "right" (i.e. typical) lifestyle for a graduate student.

But anyway, great work HappyQuark! Really fabulous data collecting and compilation there. I would suggest that you put the spreadsheet up on Google documents or something, so that people on this forum can make changes to the stipend amounts if they see a mistake. In fact, I would suggest splitting the stipend column into normal semesters stipend, and a summer stipend, so that the picture is clearer.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:02 pm
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pqortic wrote:
but in general, this buying real state should not be factored in choosing graduate schools at all. remember at your phd, you will still be a student and will have a student life although you may be able to save money by the time you graduate. not everyone would have a 15 year mortgage and not everyone would agree mortgaging a house like that is a wise thing to do given the student income.

I think grae is just trying to impress others by making stuff up about her income and life style. as astroprof said you should not expect to be a "rich" graduate student.

Sorry you're so poor.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:15 pm
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pqortic wrote:
I think grae is just trying to impress others by making stuff up about her income and life style. as astroprof said you should not expect to be a "rich" graduate student.

Since when is owning a home "rich"? Of course each financial situation is different, your lifestyle, what you're getting, coming in with, taxes, fees, etc. That being said I wouldn't say she's trying to impress others, though it seems in this day and age being both financial savvy and responsible at the same time is actually impressive, as depressing as that reality is to live with. All she's pointing out is that you can put together a comfortable, not rich, but comfortable living on that income if you analyze each package for what it's really worth. Yeah, not everyone will mortgage a house, they may not want to, the area may not be affordable for that, so on a so forth. However, it's only unwise if your income alone is incapable of handling the mortgage. If you're not an idiot and you do your homework on it you won't put yourself in a stupid situation. Your income will dictate what you have work with, whether you're a student or a fast food worker or an Executive. Whatever your source of income you always price a range of affordability and try and find a house to fit that range. You should definitely factor in what the financial package can allow you to do in a given area. It will let you know what kind of lifestyle you can and can't live, that includes owning a home if it's something that is important to you. It's not all about the school itself, if I can go to Cornell and own my own home, or go to Berkeley and live is a crappy apartment or in graduate dorms. Yeah, that boosts Cornell is my book, as it should in anyone's.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:53 pm
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giga17 wrote:
pqortic wrote:
I think grae is just trying to impress others by making stuff up about her income and life style. as astroprof said you should not expect to be a "rich" graduate student.

Basically you're saying flat out grae is a liar because she is "making stuff up"? I totally agree one does not become a graduate student to be rich, in fact it is the wrong career path to seek if one is looking to make money. But having lived in the Ithaca area, I know that the stipend of ~32K/annum that Cornell offers is way more than enough for people to live a very, very comfortable lifestyle. Rent can be very cheap (600 for a decent place is quite common, and if one is willing to share, it can drop to even 400), and the cost of living is really quite low. This situation is probably not the norm, but I think the way you're showing throwing aspersions to her character is totally uncalled for. You should have verified with other Cornell graduate students what grae is claiming, before throwing down the gaunlet of what you think should be the "right" (i.e. typical) lifestyle for a graduate student.

But anyway, great work HappyQuark! Really fabulous data collecting and compilation there. I would suggest that you put the spreadsheet up on Google documents or something, so that people on this forum can make changes to the stipend amounts if they see a mistake. In fact, I would suggest splitting the stipend column into normal semesters stipend, and a summer stipend, so that the picture is clearer.

Thank you.

It never occurred to me that I might come off as bragging, but now that it's been said I see how it could definitely look like that. I wasn't trying to brag, I was trying to state facts. When I give advice here, if I'm conjecturing based on what seems should be the right answer, I say so. If I'm not sure, I say so. If I'm stating my opinion, I do try and point that out if it's not obvious. However, whenever I can, I rely on facts, experience, and personal first-hand knowledge. What do I know better than my own situation? I use specific examples because I think saying "I bought a house" says a lot more than "I'm paid well."

I also don't think it's anything to brag over. No one goes to physics grad school for money. I didn't choose Cornell because of the money. And I also wasn't telling anyone they should buy a house. My own decision was a personal one that I made with due thought and counsel from people older and wiser than myself. I made it because I was able to be extremely confident that it was a good decision for me. I was just trying to illustrate that at some schools, your stipend will afford you an excess of disposable income, whereas in others you will have to budget carefully just to get by. That's just a fact, and to state that for the most part every school will provide you with the same income to expense ratio is incredible. I also did not assign any judgement to that fact; I never made any statements as to the importance of one's stipend in graduate school. Of course no one goes to graduate school to get rich.

Ithaca is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, and Cornell is a private University with a big endowment. They pay their professors and students extremely well in order to recruit them to such a freezing cold, isolated place, and because they can afford to. Yes, it's not average. But look at the numbers happyquark gave us. It's not even an outlier. You'll notice most of the schools at the top are in places where it's very cheap to live, and a fair number are also private. Meanwhile, a solid third of the list are below \$15k effective dollars per 9-month term (places like UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, and U Washington). That's around \$10,000 or %40 less than Cornell per 9-month term. That's huge. However, I'd never argue that this should be the most important factor in where you go to school.

Finally, we are students, yes, but after the first two years graduate school is more like having a job as a researcher. We're talking about adults in their mid to late 20's, and into the early 30s even for older students and post docs. Of all the graduate students I know and meet at conferences and all the graduate students I visited, met, and stayed with during open houses, I would not say that on average they lived a student life. We have a job and we work. We earn a salary, we pay taxes, go grocery shopping, rent an apartment, etc. Many of my peers are married and some even have families. Over half own a car. I'd describe it as a hybrid somewhere between a student and a full adult, myself.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 5:11 am
 Joined: Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:36 am View Posts (18)

Joined: Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:36 am
Posts: 18
Amazing work HappyQuark!

I was just wondering how the ACCRA Cost of Living Index (COL) works. According to the COL index at http://www.bestplaces.net/col/, the cost of living at Princeton is 182 (100 is the national average), but this is mainly because the Housing col is 354 (national avg = 100) - other factors are mainly only a little over 100. Correct me if I am wrong, but I would assume that grad housing in Princeton wouldn't be 250% more expensive than the national average of grad housing rates. So if one is not interested in buying a house, the col at Princeton must be considerably less than 182.

Edit: I just saw in the spreadsheet that Princeton col is taken as 132. HappyQuark, have you already corrected for the skewed housing costs?

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 6:24 am
 Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:17 am View Posts (68)

Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:17 am
Posts: 68
Clearly I should have stayed at Rice for grad school. That would also save me the \$700 I'm spending to go home over break.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 10:41 am
 Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm View Posts (263)

Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm
Posts: 263
Grae, I didn't think that you were bragging. When I visited Ithaca and Tucson, I met plenty of graduate students who owned their own homes (most of them with two incomes, but some students were paying a mortgage by themselves). A look at the recent profile threads with financial information will also show that many places are offering graduate students \$30K+ per year. One prospective student I met said that Harvard offered a 31K/year stipend plus an 18,000 signing bonus! That signing bonus is equal to the entire ANNUAL TA/RA stipend offered by many places, as shown in the table above!

I don't think we have to be poor simply because we are graduate students. I think graduate students should expect a stipend that allows them to live comfortably and save up some money per year (\$5k to \$10k, depending on whether you have a partner with income or not). We shouldn't expect to be able to afford a lot of luxuries, but we deserve to have a stipend that not only allows us to not worry about money while we're in grad school, but also allows us to not worry about "missed opportunity" costs of being in school for 5+ more years, instead of saving up for a home and/or family like our peers who have careers now.

There are some people who love doing science so much that they are willing to be poor for it, or give up future financial security for it. If that is you, then I honestly do admire your dedication to science. But I don't think that should be the norm for graduate students. We deserve to be paid at a reasonable level to make up for the fact that even with a \$30K stipend, we are still "losing" \$15k+ per year or so on income (and free time!) we could have made if we had gotten "real jobs". Sure, we may end up with tenured positions and it could all be worth it -- but that's no guarantee. We are more likely to end up getting a job that pays only a little bit more than what we could have made with a BSc or MSc. Except now we're competing with people with 5+ years of experience and 5+ years of additional income (and raises they would get).

I'm not saying that grad school isn't worth it, but many people think "sweet, I get free tuition, plus they PAY me to do what I love?!" However, what's also happening is that you are paying ~\$15k/year that you could have been making with the skills you already have out of your undergrad. If we ever land permanent positions that require a PhD, we would have missed out on this income for 5+ years, and then get paid about the same as a BSc grad for another 4-6 years of post-docs.

My wife (who may not be able to get much work in the US) and I made the decision to accept all the costs (financial, time, and distance from our families etc.) because we think graduate school education and experience will be a good investment for our future. I hope to be able to do something I love to support my family. So it's perfectly reasonable for graduate students to demand competitive/reasonable stipends for our skills to allow us to secure ourselves financially and be "real people" instead of living like an undergraduate student into our 30s. I hope the students in Hawaii will be able to achieve a reasonable stipend!

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:10 am
 Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:17 am View Posts (68)

Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:17 am
Posts: 68
With the way the bureaucracy around here gets things done, I'm sure we'll see a stipend increase in 20 years or so.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 7:34 pm
 Joined: Fri Aug 29, 2008 9:24 am View Posts (398)

Joined: Fri Aug 29, 2008 9:24 am
Posts: 398
grae313 wrote:
Thank you.

It never occurred to me that I might come off as bragging, but now that it's been said I see how it could definitely look like that. I wasn't trying to brag, I was trying to state facts. When I give advice here, if I'm conjecturing based on what seems should be the right answer, I say so. If I'm not sure, I say so. If I'm stating my opinion, I do try and point that out if it's not obvious. However, whenever I can, I rely on facts, experience, and personal first-hand knowledge. What do I know better than my own situation? I use specific examples because I think saying "I bought a house" says a lot more than "I'm paid well."

I also don't think it's anything to brag over. No one goes to physics grad school for money. I didn't choose Cornell because of the money. And I also wasn't telling anyone they should buy a house. My own decision was a personal one that I made with due thought and counsel from people older and wiser than myself. I made it because I was able to be extremely confident that it was a good decision for me. I was just trying to illustrate that at some schools, your stipend will afford you an excess of disposable income, whereas in others you will have to budget carefully just to get by. That's just a fact, and to state that for the most part every school will provide you with the same income to expense ratio is incredible. I also did not assign any judgement to that fact; I never made any statements as to the importance of one's stipend in graduate school. Of course no one goes to graduate school to get rich.

Ithaca is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, and Cornell is a private University with a big endowment. They pay their professors and students extremely well in order to recruit them to such a freezing cold, isolated place, and because they can afford to. Yes, it's not average. But look at the numbers happyquark gave us. It's not even an outlier. You'll notice most of the schools at the top are in places where it's very cheap to live, and a fair number are also private. Meanwhile, a solid third of the list are below \$15k effective dollars per 9-month term (places like UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, and U Washington). That's around \$10,000 or %40 less than Cornell per 9-month term. That's huge. However, I'd never argue that this should be the most important factor in where you go to school.

Finally, we are students, yes, but after the first two years graduate school is more like having a job as a researcher. We're talking about adults in their mid to late 20's, and into the early 30s even for older students and post docs. Of all the graduate students I know and meet at conferences and all the graduate students I visited, met, and stayed with during open houses, I would not say that on average they lived a student life. We have a job and we work. We earn a salary, we pay taxes, go grocery shopping, rent an apartment, etc. Many of my peers are married and some even have families. Over half own a car. I'd describe it as a hybrid somewhere between a student and a full adult, myself.

This is just so wrong. let’s assume a phd graduate from a school at the middle of nowhere where is surrounded by lots of cheap houses is trying to get a job/postdoc in california. that's what one would want to do with their phd degree, right. by the time their job application gets to any of the companies in california, graduates from berkeley and many other schools there have already had several meals and coffees with the CEOs and have developed a network of people for their future career. although they might not have a house to mortgage but competing with them in getting a job would be very hard. in fact, it sounds totally insane to me to trade a good career prospect for a couple of thousand extra dollars which you can earn in short time after graduation. again, remember at your phd, you are a student and you are getting a degree which will change your life. The highest graduate payment in cornell is not even close to someone's income in a company who has a BS degree. if you are getting paid enough even if you can't buy everything that you want but yet can have a happy life then I wouldn't factor in the ability to buy a house in making a decision. having said that, of course if out of two schools in the same area with same condition, I would definitely pick the one with higher payments.

when I speak to my friends here in Maryland who are in their fourth and fifth year, they tell me that they are already offered a job/postdoc and they are encouraged by the companies to finish sooner and start their job. places like NASA, NOAA and NIST that everybody would love to work at. and of course none of us would consider buying a house with the type of income that we have. but yes, we go grocery shopping, many of us own a car and believe it or not we buy alcohol too.

I reiterate this, most of the graduate assistantships (TA, first, second year RA) in most schools are determined by the school administrators. they would take costs of living, tax and misc. expenses in generating a number for income. they try to make it consistent within the campus and comparable with other institutes so students go there. you would normally get raised after you switch to RA and when you defend a proposal. they offer fellowship to people that they really like to keep and not everybody. and of course in some shitty places they pay you nothing and expect not much from you.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 8:37 pm
 Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm View Posts (2297)User Weight = 11.40

Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm
Posts: 2297
Location: Ithaca, NY
pqortic wrote:
This is just so wrong. let’s assume a phd graduate from a school at the middle of nowhere where is surrounded by lots of cheap houses is trying to get a job/postdoc in california. that's what one would want to do with their phd degree, right. by the time their job application gets to any of the companies in california, graduates from berkeley and many other schools there have already had several meals and coffees with the CEOs and have developed a network of people for their future career. although they might not have a house to mortgage but competing with them in getting a job would be very hard. in fact, it sounds totally insane to me to trade a good career prospect for a couple of thousand extra dollars which you can earn in short time after graduation. again, remember at your phd, you are a student and you are getting a degree which will change your life. The highest graduate payment in cornell is not even close to someone's income in a company who has a BS degree. if you are getting paid enough even if you can't buy everything that you want but yet can have a happy life then I wouldn't factor in the ability to buy a house in making a decision. having said that, of course if out of two schools in the same area with same condition, I would definitely pick the one with higher payments.

You're seriously going to suggest that getting a PhD from Cornell sacrifices your career prospects? Yeah, you're right dude. There's no way I'll ever be able to network during my degree or find a job afterward. But it's OK because, like I said before, I totally picked Cornell because of the money and not the amazing research opportunities, world class facilities, industry connections (people from around the world (even California!) send people to the CNF to do work), and super friendly people. I totally traded my career for a house and it's worth it!!!!11!

pqortic wrote:
when I speak to my friends here in Maryland who are in their fourth and fifth year, they tell me that they are already offered a job/postdoc and they are encouraged by the companies to finish sooner and start their job. places like NASA, NOAA and NIST that everybody would love to work at.
OMG you guys get post docs at NASA and NIST? I'm so jealous!!11!

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 10:47 pm
 Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:37 am View Posts (426)

Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:37 am
Posts: 426
Alright, enough of this crap, back to the point. Good job HappyQuark, this is definitely something important to consider for every grad prospect. I'm curious, behind your motivations to do this, if you knew before what you know now would you still have picked Hawaii?

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:37 am
 Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2011 12:06 am View Posts (32)

Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2011 12:06 am
Posts: 32
well, cuny (where i'm going) which is not on this list will give me 25k. I'm pretty sure that will enable me to rent absolutely nothing in manhattan. : (

If anyone is else is going to cuny shoot me a pm... i could really use a roomate!

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2012 6:10 am
 Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2012 2:06 pm View Posts (62)

Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2012 2:06 pm
Posts: 62
Bozostein wrote:
well, cuny (where i'm going) which is not on this list will give me 25k. I'm pretty sure that will enable me to rent absolutely nothing in manhattan. : (

If anyone is else is going to cuny shoot me a pm... i could really use a roomate!

I'd think you'd be better of renting in Queens or the Bronx and then taking the subway in.

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 Post subject: Re: Weighted Stipend Data by UniversityPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:33 am
 Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:08 am View Posts (761)

Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:08 am
Posts: 761
midwestphysics wrote:
Alright, enough of this crap, back to the point. Good job HappyQuark, this is definitely something important to consider for every grad prospect. I'm curious, behind your motivations to do this, if you knew before what you know now would you still have picked Hawaii?

This is a tough question to answer. If what you mean is "If you knew before what you know now about stipends, would you have still picked Hawaii" then my I suspect my decision would have been the same. If what you mean is "If you knew what you know about stipends, Hawaii in general and what your priorities as a grad student would eventually be" then my answer is, probably not. I'll explain in terms of my original priorities and how they may or may not have changed. My final choices were primarily between the University of Utah and the University of Hawaii so those are the two I'll be comparing. Additionally, I'll be ordering things from most to least important:

1. Research Interest (Most Important):
Hawaii primarily does neutrino physics, roughly half and half between experiment and theory. Utah does primarily Condensed matter, again roughly half and half experiment/theory although from what I can tell they have an exceptionally good theory program and a pretty typical experimental program. When I originally applied to Utah, I was quite interested in their theory department and also one particular experimental group (specifically Christoph Boehme's Spin Electronics group ). After all was said and done, I found myself more interested in the neutrino physics than the condensed matter. I'll fully admit that I don't feel like I had enough undergrad research experience in either field to really know which was the correct fit but I felt myself gravitate to particle physics a bit more.

Has my opinion changed?: No
I still think the research Utah does is interesting but I also still find myself more interested in Hawaii's research. Until I get into the thick of graduate research, I don't think I'll be able to make a proper comparison so this should all be taken with a grain of salt.

2. Location:
Hawaii
I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah and a major part of my application process was based on getting away from the midwest. I don't hate the midwest and don't hate Utah in particular, but I felt like I really need a change of scenery. I think it's pretty obvious to see why Hawaii won this category

Has my opinion changed?: *** yes!
Hawaii is a very nice place to visit but, in my opinion, is not a great place to live. Adding poverty to that and living in Hawaii can be a nightmare. First, for the good.
- Beautiful (mostly)
- Outdoor Activities (beaches/ocean, hiking, etc)
- Interesting mixture of multiple cultures

Now, the bad. Note, some of these things may or may not bother you so YMMV:
- Except for some select areas, like Waikiki or the North Shore, Hawaii is very dirty. People don't take care of this island paradise and don't seem to care that most of it looks trashy.
- There is a significant homeless population that would rival places like New York City and San Francisco.
- Big bike theft problem. Any time you find a bike rack in Hawaii, you will find a battered bike frame, bike tire/wheel or other piece of hardware locked to the rack. See this photo album for examples: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set= ... 958215c5f2
There is also a lot of general property theft and needless vandalism.
- The food here is bad. If you want Hawaiian food, Thai or Sushi then you'll have no problem. If you want anything else, it will be vastly subpar to whatever you were having on the mainland (If it even exists). Say goodbye to mexican food. It doesn't exist in any real form in Hawaii. Say goodbye to Pizza as well as, more generally, all Italian food. Things like Cheese, milk, tomatoes, orange juice, etc are either every expensive or hard to come by. For things like Barbecue, fried chicken, buffalo wings and greek food, there exists generally a single restaurant which caters to this food and the food isn't great, just ok by Hawaii standards.
- Everything is ridiculously expensive and I suspect that a lot of products/services are artificially inflated just because people know that they can overcharge without anyone questioning it.
- Really bad drivers. I'm aware that every state thinks they have the worst drivers, but those people haven't been to Hawaii. Drivers here are reckless and impatient, despite the relaxed attitude they are supposed to have. As a pedestrian crossing an intersection, 9 times out of 10 you will have a driver continually roll up to you with the tacit assumption that you are going to get out of their way. Keep in mind I'm not just talking about a standard California rolling stop, but rolling at a stop with a pedestrian a few feet from the car and no intention of even looking at the brake. People in Hawaii also don't know how to use a turn signal or, if they know how to use it, opt not to. While we are on the topic, I should point out that being a physics grad student in Hawaii, you WILL NOT have enough money to have a car. Not a single one of the first years has a car and most of the second/third years don't have cars either. Due to the problems with theft, most of us just walk everywhere or use the transit system.
- The bus system sucks. In theory, buses should function beautifully on Hawaii. Unfortunately, the whole system is grossly inefficient and poorly implemented. Most buses are, on average, about 5 minutes late and very frequently 10-15 minutes late. Getting to and from a place on the island, regardless of distance, takes 2 hours so you have to plan far in advance before trying to go anywhere.
- Learn to live with the cockroaches. Every part of the island is covered with the bastards and there is nothing you can do to keep them away. I generally kill 3-5 a day just on my walk from my apartment to the University (primarily at night) and they are the big ones. The university also has a serious ferrel cat infestation and there are some crazy old people that come to the University every day to feed them.
- There is an overt form of racism on the island focused primarily on caucasians. I'm very white so I stand out quite clearly as a haole. Depending on the region, responses will vary from dirty looks and hollers to, in one instance, being spit on and threatened.
- Even if bike theft weren't a problem, the roads are not built to accommodate them. The roads are too narrow to comfortably ride in most regions and the majority of roads, with the exception of the University area, lack bike lanes. One would think this would be the ideal location for bike use but there is no infrastructure to support it.
- The weather here is obnoxious. During the summer months, it rarely rains and when it does it mists so slightly that you can't even feel it on your skin. During the winter, it rains almost daily but the rain comes and goes in spurts and only lasts for a minute or two. It generally doesn't rain hard enough or long enough to justify a jacket but, if you get caught in that minute of rain you'll be drenched from head to toe. It's like playing Russian Roulette, everyday.
- All construction projects, building repairs and general maintenance takes at least twice as long as it should and frequently more. The people here are too relaxed.
- The bars here are horrible, and this is coming from someone who previously lived in the mormon capital of the world.
- Most musicians/bands, art exhibits, galleries, etc don't bother coming to Honolulu so don't plan on going to any concerts while you are here.
- There are a lot of things you can't buy locally and shipping costs for online purchases is always significantly more expensive to Hawaii than other mainland locations. It is very common for reasonably small packages, for example an external hard drive, to have shipping costs of \$30. Most of the time, if Amazon doesn't sell it with Super Saver Shipping, you can't justify the purchase.

I have some other gripes about the place but I feel like this list is long enough as it is. I guess what I'm saying is that, contrary to popular opinion, living in Hawaii is a hinderance, not a privilege (at least for me).

3. Faculty/Students
Utah

Utah had an open house and I really liked the faculty and graduate students. All of them were very friendly and helpful. Hawaii had no open house so I was taking a shot in the dark that I would get along well with any of them.

Has my opinion changed?: Yes
As it turned out, Hawaii also has a great set of faculty and graduate students. I lucked out.

4. Rank/Prestige
Hawaii
Utah has a better US News rank, Hawaii has a much better NRC S-rank. I feel that the S-rank is a better indicator of a programs research potential

Has my opinion changed?: Unknown
Hawaii has their hand in just about every possible neutrino physics experiment and most of the faculty are working on a lot of different projects. In part, they probably have a high NRC rank because HEP publications get a lot of contributors but, also, they just are legitimately hard working.

5. Stipend (least important)
Utah

See plot for specific info.

The priorities I outlined above are organized based on how I "used" to feel about them. However, if I were to do things over and I could reorganize my priorities, it would go.

1. Research
2. Location
3. Stipend
4. Faculty/Staff
5. Rank/Prestige

After all is said and done, I'm still conflicted as to whether or not I'm happy with my choice.

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