Updated: November 2021
The nearly 7,000 graduate students at MIT are one of the most talented scholarly cohorts in the world. Their educational experiences on campus go beyond just research.
To help us meet our charge of improving the quality of graduate student life and learning at MIT, we have been listening and responding to the ideas and concerns of MIT’s graduate students, and we have started to build stronger connections between members of the Office of the Vice Chancellor (OVC), the Division of Student Life (DSL), and the Graduate Student Council (GSC).
Based upon meetings with graduate students in small and large groups, we have identified shared goals:
- strengthening the support network for graduate students and their families;
- expanding housing options (on-campus and off) ; and
- enhancing diversity and inclusion, advising, and professional development programs and services.
The Road Ahead
To achieve our goals, we have launched a series of initiatives, known collectively as the Graduate Student Roadmap, as part of a strategic effort to improve the graduate student experience at MIT.
As pictured above, the Graduate Student Roadmap consists of the following initiatives: Onboarding and Orientation; Diversity and Inclusion; Professional Development and Advising; Financial Stability; Housing and Food Security; Community; Support and Wellness; and Business Practices.
As we work to bring these initiatives to fruition, we are committed to leveraging transparency, community ideas, and resources from across campus to make, track, and report on enhancements in these critical areas.
Stipends and Other Measures of Financial Support
- MIT Endowment re-investment
Announced in October 2021, the increase in MIT’s endowment will enable greater support for undergraduate and graduate students, and a stronger MIT, including a 3% increase in pay for faculty, staff, postdocs, and graduate students starting on December 1, 2021.
- Graduate stipend rate Increase
We provided a 3.25% increase for AY2022, which exceeded the GSC’s Stipend Working Group estimate of the change in cost-of-living by more than 1%. In addition, we removed the option that formerly allowed departments to set stipends at 10% below the approved baseline rate.
Family grants and funds
- Dedicated Staff Support
The Office of Graduate Education (OGE) Hired Adj Marshall, Program Administrator for Graduate Student Families.
- Need-Blind Grants for Graduate Students with Children
As recommended by the GSC, we have significantly increased our baseline support levels for graduate students with dependent children. Base-level of the awards increased from $2K, $3K, and $4K for 1, 2, and 3 or more dependent children, respectively, to $5K, $6K, and $7K. In AY2021, 99 grants were awarded for $230,500.
- Additional MIT HR Center for WorkLife and WellBeing resources
OGE subsidizes Backup Child Care In-Home ($5/hr) and In-Center ($10/day) for graduate students. As of fall 2021, coverage has been increased from 10 to 15 days a year.
Short-Term Emergency Funds (for one-time, non-recurring emergencies)
- $510,000 provided for 325 students across 375+ transactions (awarded ~ $1,300 per person from onset of pandemic).
- Covid-19 response: Students applied for short-term emergency funding if they were experiencing hardships, including loss of summer funding. Assistance was given for housing/rent (~$145K); moving and storage (~$60K); travel (~$100K); food and groceries (~$15K); utilities (~$10K); and loss of summer funding (~$180K).
Doctoral Long-Term Hardship Funding (long-term, focused on less than 12 month stipends)
- Awarded ~$80K for 17 applications received from across MIT’s schools and programs.
- Supporting remote appointments during Covid-19
As of November 2021, we have been able to facilitate ~1,300 requests for students to conduct their work or research abroad. MIT dedicated $5.8M and significant administrative resources towards this effort, which enabled students to advance their research and studies throughout the pandemic, assisted them in supporting their families and other personal priorities, and addressed complex U.S. and foreign compliance requirements.
- Covid-19 funding extensions
The provost is working with School/College Deans to fund extensions for PhD students who, due to Covid-19, require an additional year to complete their degrees.
- Covid-19 HEERF Funding
MIT was awarded and is in the process of distributing $8,955,163 in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding for students to cover any component of their cost of attendance (except those already covered by financial aid) or for emergency costs that arose due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Yellow Ribbon Program expansion
The Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program was expanded to all of MIT, and the Sloan School of Management increased their benefit from $15K to $20K to align with peers. This program allows institutions of higher learning in the U.S. to voluntarily enter into an agreement with the VA to fund tuition expenses that exceed the maximum private tuition allowance. The institution can contribute up to 50% of those expenses and the VA will match the same amount as the institution.
- The Office of the Vice Chancellor (OVC), Office of Graduate Education (OGE), the International Students Office (ISO), and related support offices provide help and support on any and every issue faced by our vibrant and dynamic international student community.
- Recent priorities have included: remote appointments; financial security; career development opportunities; and legal support. Specifically…
- ISO and OVC are actively working with academic programs on expanding internships and experiential learning in the curriculum (which could meet eligibility requirements for the F-1 Curricular Practical Training authorization).
- Following Task Force 2021, there is a committee being formed to consider an Institute-wide requirement for professional development for all graduate students.
- The ISO maintains an immigration attorney referral list that we provide to students upon request, or as an advising situation requires.
- Any and all international students facing any situation where they fear retaliation, or feel mistreated at MIT have resources via the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response Office (IDHR).
Support and Wellness Benefits
- Continued to offer “best-in-class” health benefits for students
- Compared to peers, MIT offers comprehensive and inexpensive insurance. [link]
- Any plan design changes are discussed with the Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee (with a Grad Student rep) and vetted with contracted actuaries.
- Insurance costs are typically covered by departments for doctoral students.
- Additional mental health benefits / support
- Telehealth services and teletherapy groups launched to support students virtually.
- Student insurance now covers 52 off-campus psychotherapy visits/year with no copay and offers groups specifically for constituencies including women and Black women.
- Online module for Mental Wellbeing was launched in partnership with Everfi.
- Additions to OGE staffing
- OGE hired two new GradSupport staff members, Assistant Deans Gaurav Jashnani and Liz Guttenberg, and plans to hire one more this year.
- OGE hired two new GradSupport staff members, Assistant Deans Gaurav Jashnani and Liz Guttenberg, and plans to hire one more this year.
Onboarding and Orientation
- Onboarding via Atlas. Following a successful pilot in spring 2018, all incoming graduate students were granted access to Atlas for Grads, an online portal for administrative systems, resources, and information.
- Orientation programming. New and improved orientation programming and content (including summer pre-orientation e-letters) was created in collaboration with the GSC, covering topics such as settling into MIT and Cambridge, academic support, and health and wellness). Orientation programming was expanded into the fall semester as well, to engage a larger group of students.
Diversity Equity, and Inclusion
- Assessment of programs. OVC has undertaken an assessment of all programs that support diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure they are best meeting student needs.
- Response to the Report of NASEM’s Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine. President Reif established a presidential advisory board of senior leaders and four working groups to respond to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) report’s specific recommendations, including on the power dynamic in higher education. The board recommended introducing a revised policy for handling complaints of discriminatory or harassing behavior by faculty or staff; committing to reporting anonymized information about these complaints; and creating a central hub – the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response (IDHR) office – where anyone in the community can go for help if they observe or encounter discriminatory treatment at MIT.
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training. In partnership with the learning company EverFi, OVC created a new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion module, required for all incoming students and recommended for all current ones. In addition, OVC is collecting and sharing department-level data on recruitment, admissions and yield; adopting new policies and practices for fellowships.
- Increasing Grad Diversity Among Incoming Students. Through the Graduate Application Assistance Program (GAAP), students from departments across MIT provide guidance to prospective students – particularly from underrepresented groups – with the graduate application process.
Professional Development and Advising
- Understanding the advising landscape. OVC launched a department questionnaire generally focused on the advisor selection process, resources for students, feedback to advisors, and training in advising/mentoring to inform the TaskForce 2021 “Graduate Student Advising and Mentoring” priority.
- Partnering to improve advising. In collaboration with Institute partners (OGE, CAPD, SoE, and others), established advising skill workshops for faculty to help support best practices.
- Careers exploration. A Committee on Student Career Exploration and Services was created, composed of students, faculty, and staff, to develop proposals on career exploration and services.
- Professional development. The Graduate Student Professional Development Working Group created professional development competencies which graduate programs adopted into their learning goals, and assessed current programs and gaps to be addressed. In addition, a new Associate Director of Graduate Student Professional Development was hired.
- Schools’ commitment to alleviating financial insecurity. We secured a commitment from each School to implement new policies and practices, and to potentially identify new funding resources, in order to help alleviate the financial insecurity of doctoral students with 9-month stipends or who have non-resident status. Specific efforts included Doctoral Student Financial Hardship Funding, designed to assist PhD students who find themselves in financial hardships arising from special circumstances that may impact their long-term academic progress.
- Strengthening the support network for graduate students and their children. The Graduate Families Support Working Group gathered input from students, Graduate Officers, Graduate Administrators, and the Committee on Graduate Programs to inform its final report. Recommendations included hiring a designated staff person to focus on the needs of graduate students with children; offering a need-blind grant for PhD and master’s students in eligible programs; creating a Grant for Graduate Students with Children, to cover expenses such as child and health care and housing; and capturing more robust data on graduate students with children.
- Graduate stipends. The Graduate Stipends Committee, comprised of students, faculty, and staff, established a 3% increase in 2019-20 stipend rates.
- Expanding childbirth accommodation and parental leave benefits. In 2018, the two-month paid childbirth accommodation leave policy was expanded to three months, and a parental leave benefit was added so that all parents who have significant responsibilities for a newborn or a child newly placed with them are eligible for one month of leave (paid leave for those currently supported by a RA, TA, or fellowship).
Housing and Food Security
- Graduate Housing Working Group. In fall 2017, in response to the findings of the Graduate Student Housing Working Group’s interim report, MIT committed to add at least 950 beds to the 2016-17 graduate housing stock and to conduct a rigorous assessment of needs every three years, and an annual review of progress. MIT is now embarking on a project to design and construct new graduate housing at the west end of campus on the site of the West Lot parking area and Building W89 (MIT Police).
- ARM (Accessing Resources at MIT) Coalition. The ARM Coalition was commissioned by Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson and Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart in fall 2018, in response to work being done by CASE (Class Awareness Support and Equality). ARM connects students with campus resources when they are struggling with financial issues.
- Food Insecurity Solutions Working Group. Formed in response to troubling survey data revealing food insecurity among undergraduate and graduate students, this group made recommendations across four broad categories: time and access; money; financial literacy and education; and marketing. Some initiatives that have been implemented since include:
- SwipeShare. Through the SwipeShare program, students on meal plans who do not want or need all of their meal swipes can give them to other students who can use them.
- TechMart. In 2018, MIT opened TechMart, an at-cost grocery store that carries a wide variety of foods, including fresh produce and meat.
- Graduate Student Food Resources Program. The program offers resources to individual graduate students and graduate student couples and families centered around making food options more convenient, accessible, and affordable.
- MIT Food and Grocery Map. The MIT Food and Grocery Map showcases a wide range of local dining and shopping options.
- Department Support Program. The MindHandHeart Department Support Program was created to provide faculty, staff, and students with data, tools, and support to measurably enhance the academic climate in each department
- New e-letters for graduate students. In 2019, OVC launched a quarterly e-letter to share progress on various grad initiatives, highlight useful resources, and enhance transparency and open communication between OVC and our graduate students.
- Grad blogs. Now in its fourth year, the Grad Blogs site presents a self-described “collective diary” of the MIT graduate student cohort. New posts are published monthly and the blog editorial team hosts two workshops per year for prospective bloggers.
Support and Wellness
- Increasing support for the graduate student population. Added a new staff member to the GradSupport team; strengthened networks with departments; and created training for graduate students.
Resource for Students
Short-Term Emergency Fund (non-recurring financial hardship)
Doctoral Long-term Financial Hardship Funding
Grant for Graduate Students with Children
Guaranteed Transitional Support
Nonresident Doctoral Thesis Research Status