Does external funding make a difference?

qp10
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:31 am

Does external funding make a difference?

Postby qp10 » Wed Nov 25, 2015 2:25 am

Hi, I'm an international aiming for physics graduate programs of 2016 in the US.

I've just secured an external fellowship that promises to fund me full tuition + moderate stipend for the whole process of graduate studies. Will this make a difference on my acceptance rates? Does this mean I can take some long shots? I'm applying for some schools in the 10~20 range and others in the 20~40 range.

I know there are threads that ask this question and I've read them too, but they were written like ~6 years ago. How's it like nowadays?

TakeruK
Posts: 812
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Does external funding make a difference?

Postby TakeruK » Wed Nov 25, 2015 12:40 pm

My understanding is that there are two main factors that limit admissions: money to pay for students and time/resources to train, mentor and teach students. An external fellowship could help with the first one but you would still be limited by the second one.

Based on some conversations with faculty and administrators, I get the sense that at the top schools with lots of money, the time/resources factor is a much bigger deal than money. So, although having an external fellowship will help because these fellowships tend to be competitive and winning one means you are likely a strong candidate, it's not necessarily enough at some schools.

You should still take long shots that are good fits for you with this fellowship though! You never know unless you try. Make sure you let the school know about this award (usually there is a section in the application forms).

I am curious---US schools have tuition rates that can vary a lot. You say your fellowship funds full tuition---is there an upper limit on how much tuition they would pay? Usually, the cost of a graduate student is a lot more than the stipend cost, so in order for it to really make a difference on your admission chances, it needs to cover a significant part of your total cost to the department. At my school, a graduate student costs our department almost $100,000 per year (including stipend, tuition, benefits and overhead charges). I think my school may be on the high end, but for many schools, an international graduate student will cost at least $60,000 per year.

qp10
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:31 am

Re: Does external funding make a difference?

Postby qp10 » Thu Nov 26, 2015 1:58 am

Thanks for your reply. I guess I should add some top 10 schools to my list and keep my fingers crossed.

No, this fellowship does not state a cap on the tuition funding. It just says "full financial support for tuiton and ~15k us dollars/yr for stipend", but I'm not sure about the other costs such as health insurance.

hermitw
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2012 3:11 am

Re: Does external funding make a difference?

Postby hermitw » Fri Jul 15, 2016 2:12 am

TakeruK wrote:My understanding is that there are two main factors that limit admissions: money to pay for students and time/resources to train, mentor and teach students. An external fellowship could help with the first one but you would still be limited by the second one.

Based on some conversations with faculty and administrators, I get the sense that at the top schools with lots of money, the time/resources factor is a much bigger deal than money. So, although having an external fellowship will help because these fellowships tend to be competitive and winning one means you are likely a strong candidate, it's not necessarily enough at some schools.

You should still take long shots that are good fits for you with this fellowship though! You never know unless you try. Make sure you let the school know about this award (usually there is a section in the application forms).

I am curious---US schools have tuition rates that can vary a lot. You say your fellowship funds full tuition---is there an upper limit on how much tuition they would pay? Usually, the cost of a graduate student is a lot more than the stipend cost, so in order for it to really make a difference on your admission chances, it needs to cover a significant part of your total cost to the department. At my school, a graduate student costs our department almost $100,000 per year (including stipend, tuition, benefits and overhead charges). I think my school may be on the high end, but for many schools, an international graduate student will cost at least $60,000 per year.


I guess the tuition and overhead are just money from one to another pocket of the department, so what really cost them is the stipend and benefits, if you are TAing. For RA, it is a different story. I find it unreasonable to charge profs up to 45k tuition for students who don't take class at all.

TakeruK
Posts: 812
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Does external funding make a difference?

Postby TakeruK » Fri Jul 15, 2016 11:14 am

hermitw wrote:I guess the tuition and overhead are just money from one to another pocket of the department, so what really cost them is the stipend and benefits, if you are TAing. For RA, it is a different story. I find it unreasonable to charge profs up to 45k tuition for students who don't take class at all.


It's actually not one pocket of the department to another. Tuition/overhead is money that leaves the department and goes to the University. Some of this may eventually make it way back to the department through University funding, but it's not super clear.

Since I wrote the above post, I've learned a few more things. The on-paper tuition price for grad students is not the same as the actual cost to the department. At my university, the graduate school charges the department about $45k per year for tuition, however, this number is reduced if the department meets a few requirements. This is a good thing because it allows the graduate school to set financial incentives (or disincentives) to ensure departments follow policies like meeting the minimum stipend rate etc.

I used to think that it did not make sense to charge the same amount of tuition whether or not a student takes classes. But, now, I don't think it's so strange after all. In many programs, you only take classes for a very small amount of time compared to all the other time you spend in grad school. So, maybe the correct charge would be $50k/year for the 1.5 years of classes and $40k/year for the remaining time. But then this causes bookkeeping hassles and it also discourages students from taking classes later on (because profs may have to pay more for tuition when they take extra classes for fun or for their own benefit).

So, I think it makes more sense to charge a flat rate tuition that doesn't change based on what the student is doing. And although it's called "tuition", at my school, this is part of the overhead costs. The label "tuition" is just a label, it doesn't actually pay for classes at all.




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