Graduate School Dean Linda Dykstra expressed concern regarding both the number of assistants and the future of tuition remissions at a recent Board of Trustees committee meeting.
UNC-CH uses tuition remission -- which allows out-of-state students to pay tuition at in-state levels -- to attract qualified out-of-state graduate and doctoral students to North Carolina. About $20 million in state funds is used to fund 1,322 tuition remissions for students, and other private sources are used to provide an additional 1,300 remissions.
Dykstra said that UNC-CH could use at least 200 more tuition remissions from the state but that even those won't entirely fund the more than 8,000 research and teaching assistants at UNC-CH.
Although the UNC-system president's budget proposal asks for about 200 more tuition remissions for UNC-CH, Dykstra said it is unlikely the request will survive the N.C. General Assembly's budget process next year.
This year the legislature was forced to trim about $2 billion from the state budget, and next year it faces another shortfall of at least $1.5 billion. Dykstra said University officials will continue to lobby the legislature for additional tuition remissions and defend full funding for the tuition remissions already in place.
Graduate School officials said the University might not have sufficient tuition remissions to support the demand for both research and teaching assistants.
"In order to remain a leader as a research university, we need to stay competitive," said Sandra Hoeflich, an associate dean in the graduate school. "If we can't provide benefits to our students that other universities can, the best students will go elsewhere."
Hoeflich said research assistants, remissions and grants all are intertwined. To recruit more research assistants, the University must have enough money to pay their stipends. Those stipends rely heavily on the faculty's ability to win federal research grants, which are directly tied to the number of research assistants working on the project.
An important factor in that equation, Hoeflich said, is the research assistants, who work with professors on research projects that often receive federal funding from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health.
"Obviously, any one person can only do so much," she said. "Having an assistant extends what each person is capable of doing, whether they're making new discoveries or curing diseases."
Hoeflich said accepted graduate students are nominated by their departments for tuition remissions. Selected students must meet certain criteria, such as contributing to the University as a teaching or research assistant. They also must be full-time students and make a minimal stipend.
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