Graduate students struggling under strained budgets

Students report being hungry and unhoused at SGPS student town hall 

SGPS is hosting a series of town hall meetings in Kingston Hall.
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Graduate and professional students voiced concerns with Queen’s at the SGPS town hall on Oct. 4. 
 
The town hall is part of a series of meetings the SGPS is holding in Kingston Hall to hear students’ housing issues and concerns. At this one, students said the funding they’re receiving from Queen’s is insufficient to meet their basic needs.
 
“Students were very adamant at pointing out they’re not looking to make money; they just don’t want to starve to be a graduate student,” Emilia Ganslandt, SGPS vice-president (community), said in an interview with The Journal
 
Graduate PhD students taking a fifth-year due to COVID-19 related circumstances who were required to delay their fieldwork or research are not guaranteed funding, according to the SGPS. 
 
A campaign over the pandemic to secure fifth-year students funding was denied by the University. 
 
The cost of tuition for a PhD student at Queen’s is $7,185.77 annually. The minimum funding for a PhD student is $20,000 per year. 
 
The SPGS is advocating for the University to increase minimum funding for students and to reduce students’ tuition after they’ve completed their comprehensive exam. 
 
“People feel maybe they’ve been misrepresented exactly how far their money would be able to go,” Ganslandt said. “We had a lot of international students that were like ‘I didn’t know. Canadian dollars don’t mean anything to me, but I was under the impression that this would be sufficient for living.’” 
 
Most graduate students depend on funding from the University to support themselves. Some graduate students do secure external funding, but that money is subject to the use of the department they work for. 
 
“Even the big Tri Council Awards—there’s a petition now called Support Our Science that’s a national campaign to increase the Tri-Council Awards—haven’t increased since 2003 and the cost of living has gone up 48 per cent since 2003,” Ganslandt said.  
 
According to Ganslandt, students have a “sense of unequalness” because their perception is funding flexibility, teaching assistant (TA) hours, and the conditions of funding differ across departments. 
 
“Research isn’t supposed to be competitive in this way where some people get a lot more for it than others, it’s supposed to be collaborative. These sorts of discrepancies don’t promote collaborative working.”
 
Queen’s is not the only Canadian university up against rising costs. The Concordian reported TAs are struggling to make ends meet at Concordia due to low wages and a cap on working hours. 
 
“There is an increase [in cost of living] among all universities. We are heading towards a recession and students are contemplating is getting an education worth it or is it better to get into the work market?” Ganslandt said. 
 
The SGPS will be creating a formal report on graduate and PhD student funding from the discussions had at the town hall. 
 
The report will include reports previously complied by the psychology, math, and mechanical engineering departments examining funding for graduate students. 
 
“Students are talking about being starving and unhoused because of their lack of funding,” Ganslandt said. “That’s not a way to promote research.” 
 
The next town hall meeting is taking place on Oct. 25.
 

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