GSA Graduate Funding Letter
Dear McMaster Graduate Student Community:
As your GSA, our top priority is to advocate for the needs of graduate students on and off campus. With this in mind, we would like to address the current economic fragility of many graduate students at McMaster.
Graduate students have been particularly impacted by the effects of high inflation and the ongoing costof-living crisis in Hamilton. According to the UTILE housing report published in August 2022 on Canadian student housing, student median rent is 25% higher than the median rent of the general population and 68% of student renters in the Greater Toronto Area have debt related to education. Further, graduate stipends in combination with TA and RA in lieu work vary widely between those receiving tri-agency funding and those receiving a minimum of $13,500 after tuition is paid; where Masters students do not have a minimum funding floor. According to the Ontario Living Wage Network, a living wage in Hamilton equates to $34,671 per year. We acknowledge that graduate funding sources are complex, coming through a combination of TA and RA in lieu work, research grants, and other internal and external funding. However, receiving only minimum graduate funding after tuition is paid means that students often need to find additional work or rely on family to remain financially stable, which can affect student research quality, take away productive time from their academic and research contributions, and put some at risk of additional delays. We believe that this needs to be addressed to ensure that all graduate students can succeed in completing their studies in a timely manner while continuing to make impactful academic and research contributions that secure McMaster’s reputation as a top university world-renowned for innovation and discovery, without driving them to neglect their physical and mental wellbeing due to stress.
In February 2023, the Graduate Council members voted on the initiation of a task force to review sources and distribution of graduate funding across our university, with the aim of developing a recommendation report for the Provost and Graduate Council by the end of 2023. As researchers, we understand that evidence-based solutions are important. However, graduate students need solutions now. Graduate students cannot afford to wait; many wrestle with financial hardship and no additional data is needed to know that the minimum stipend of $13,500 is simply unliveable. Refusing to sufficiently increase the funding floor undermines McMaster University’s strategic plan and primary objective of Inclusive Excellence, as only those with sufficient financial means and family support will be able to afford a graduate-level education. It also means that talented prospective students will choose other institutions with more competitive funding packages. Finally, many students with insufficient funding take on additional part-time work to afford the cost of living. This reduces the time and energy they can focus on producing high-quality research. This also puts them at risk of being delayed in their studies and becoming overtime, when they lose their guaranteed funding. Without committing to unilaterally raising the floor of graduate funding, McMaster cannot uphold its objective of Inclusive Excellence, it becomes less competitive at attracting new talent, and it reduces students’ time on research. We call on McMaster University to not just create a task force, but to commit to increase graduate student funding overall.
As your GSA, we continue to advocate for improved financial security for graduate students at
McMaster University. Therefore, we continue to campaign for Raising the Floor, to increase the minimum floor of $13,500 available on top of tuition for Ph.D. students at McMaster University and propose a minimum floor be also instated for thesis-based Masters students. We promote higher graduate student funding at Graduate Council and with university administrators. These issues are not limited to our local community, therefore we engage in collaborations and collegial discussion between graduate students and advocates across Canada, through conferences and advocacy groups including ThinkGrad.
Therefore, when extraordinary circumstances beyond our control arise that negatively impact student progress, it is the shared duty of not just student advocacy organizations such as the GSA, CUPE3906 and faculty associations, but the entire university administration and community to work together to support students. Graduate students are critical contributors to original research and require substantial funding increases to ensure they can focus on and excel in their research endeavors.
We call on McMaster University to listen to graduate student concerns by:
- Raising the Floor for graduate funding to $34,671 annually, including Masters thesis students
- Provide overtime funding and tuition relief for Masters thesis and PhD students
- Increase job security for overtime TAs and RAs in lieu
What can I do as a student?
Make sure you voice your concerns regarding the lack of sufficient graduate funding by:
- Signing the Raise the Floor open letter and circulating it to other students in your department
- Emailing this letter to and engaging with your Supervisors, Program Directors,
Department Heads and Faculty Deans
- Participating in university governing bodies (i.e., Senate and Graduate Council)
Your GSA is always here to support you. Contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our office during our office hours for specific concerns (1280 Main St W, Refectory Rathskeller Building East Tower 2nd floor, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L7).