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The Daily Tar Heel

Letter to the Editor: UNC needs to pay graduate students a living wage

UNC's College of Arts and Sciences announced that they are increasing the minimum doctoral student stipend from $15,700 to $17,000. This is the first minimum graduate student stipend increase since 2015.

While this stipend increase is a step in the right direction, it does not resolve the underlying problem: Most graduate students at UNC are not paid a living wage. In fact, because of inflation and yearly increases in cost of living, UNC's graduate student stipends have decreased in purchasing power from 2015 to 2021. This new stipend increase, which does not take effect until July 1, barely counteracts the high inflation rates of 2021 and 2022 so far. 

According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, the required annual income before taxes in Orange County for a single adult with no dependents is $31,660, or approximately twice the minimum stipend that many UNC graduate students receive. Additionally, many graduate students have partners, children, parents and other dependents who rely on their income. As a result, many graduate students work two, three or more jobs in addition to the work requirements for their stipends — and many graduate students face food and housing insecurity.

To put this in perspective: the UNC Salary Database shows that Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz makes $620,000 per year. Former Provost Bob Blouin makes $493,182. There are 50 more vice chancellors, vice provosts, deans and athletic coaches who each make over $250,000 each year.

$17,000 is not enough. UNC needs to pay graduate students a living wage.  

Margaret Maurer
Doctoral candidate
English & Comparative Literature
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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