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Sarah Bond has a bachelor's degree and is working toward a Ph.D. in ancient history but she still has a hard time making ends meet.

Bond is one of UNC's numerous graduate students who struggle to stretch the funding they receive to cover basic living expenses in Chapel Hill" a problem the school is trying to address.

""Living below the poverty line is a hard thing to do" she said.

University officials have urged an increase in funding to attract and retain more graduate students and to improve these students' educational experiences.

Graduate students are the engine that drives the research here" said Steve Matson, dean of the Graduate School.

I don't see a way to improve the situation for our graduate students while they're on campus or while we're recruiting them without increased support.""

Matson said many students who would like to attend UNC ultimately decide to pursue their degrees at other schools that offer more competitive financial support packages.

""One of the remarkable things is that we still win those competitions some of the time" but we don't win enough of them Matson said.

He cited Yale University as an example. Yale provides graduate students with five years of full financial support.

That's kind of tough to compete with" Matson said.

The University's yield rate for graduate students has remained steady since 2003, with a 55 percent rate for the 2008 school year.

Though other selective schools have lower yield rates, Leslie Lerea, associate dean of student affairs for the Graduate School, said the quality of the students coming to the University is just as important as the yield rate.

We're interested in getting the best and the brightest"" she said. It's quality as well as quantity.""

James Thompson" director of graduate studies in the Department of English and Comparative Literature" said he supports Matson 100 percent.

""Every year we lose our best prospects because we can't pay them nearly the same as our competitors"" he said. We all know this is our biggest problem.""

Matson has proposed two methods of enticing students. His first idea is to provide full financial support in the student's first year.

The second proposal is an increase in tuition remission. More out-of-state students" who make up the majority of the Graduate School would pay in-state tuition rates.

Thompson explained that most graduate students aren't allowed to serve as instructors until they have at least 12 credit hours under their belts" decreasing opportunities to supplement their income.

""The first year is the killer because many of them can't teach and they're trying to pay tuition and living expenses"" he said. It's not the best way to learn.""

Board of Trustees Chairman Roger Perry said greater funding is an issue the board has paid particular attention to in recent years.

One idea" floated by Perry's colleague John Ellison at this week's tuition and fee advisory task force meeting" is using an undergraduate tuition hike to help provide money for more graduate student support.

""We've all become much more focused on the idea that graduate students need more resources because it serves to benefit the whole University" Perry said.

Bond said there is a notable difference between what UNC pays teaching assistants and what other schools pay.

We make like$14 000 a year now which is much lower than almost everywhere else" she said, mentioning that Duke University TAs make about twice as much.

Living on that small a stipend causes us to stress even more. We don't want to go into debt but it's very expensive to go here.""



Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.


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