Sunday, January 11, 2009

Budget Concerns

So unless you have been living under a rock for the last few months you are aware of the current financial crisis. So the question is, how has it been affecting you, including your experience in grad school?

The crisis has started to affect me here in UNC, so I will tell how it has begun to affect me (Nick's post on lumberjacks inspired this, because I once asked someone about a particular graduate school and he said, "Oh I know someone that went there, but I think he dropped out and became a forest ranger." (a forest ranger is kind-of like a lumberjack, ok maybe not but they both work with trees). So my ultimate option is to drop out of grad school and become a forest ranger).

Last semester after the credit crunch hit, the government of the Great State of North Carolina realized that their expenditures were too high to take a hit in taxes. So they showed a bit of prudence and the governor issued a statewide 5% cut in all state funded programs (except for certain "critical" programs, and you guessed it, Colleges and Universities were not a "critical" program). All UNC students got an email from the Chancellor informing us about the problem and said that the 5% cut would transfer down to all the individual departments (except for a few "critical" departments, and you guessed it again!, Physics was not a "critical" department, but Athletics was! and Business too! I also hear the dental program also got off easy).

And the "trickle down effect" finally came to me, in the form of an email from the chair:

"Dear grad students,
I write to emphasize to you the importance of establishing North Carolina residency for tuition purposes as soon as you possibly can. As long as you remain an out-of-state resident for tuition purposes, you are charged the full out-of-state tuition. The department has a budget from the Graduate School to provide tuition remission (i.e. the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition) for our TAs and RAs. However, this budget is limited and has been significantly reduced due to budget cuts in the Graduate School. It is quite likely that it will be insufficient to cover all the requests for tuition remission next year unless more of our students establish residency (and therefore no longer need remission). In the case of a shortfall, students who are eligible to establish residency but have not chosen to do so will be at the bottom of the priority list for remission and may not receive it. They would then be responsible for paying the full remission amount ($14,400) themselves. I am sure that you do not want to be in this situation."

As of right now I cannot establish residency for another 7-8 months and they are aware of this but after this grace period they will expect me to do so, so that I can have a different tuition status. So I was wondering if any of you are facing similar situations or if there are these types of budget rumblings on the horizon.


  1. First, I am not living under a rock but a blue sea of warm sunny skies.

    Second, I was also told I had to declare residency but was successful. (Thank heavens.)

    Third, I lucked out on the funding thing. Somehow I was notified I qualified for a GAANN Fellowship for couple years which now funds me so I don't have to TA.

    Fourth, I use Linux which provides all the software a physicist needs and more and have no software costs. :)

  2. Being from Oregon and going to school in Colorado, I have an advantage when it comes to in-state tuition. Oregon, Colorado, and most other western states except California are part of an alliance of state universities that grants in-state tuition for graduate students to anyone who qualifies for in-state tuition in any of the allied states. That means that I qualify for in-state tuition in Colorado even though I'm originally from Oregon. The paperwork was heinous, but I was able to get it all done without too much grief.

    As for budget issues, Colorado is one of the few states in the country where the economy is still growing. The estimate for the fourth quarter of 2008 put that growth at about 0.2% per year, but at least the number is still positive. That means we haven't felt any major effects yet. Here's to hoping we never do!

  3. Here's another bit of economic related information - applications to CU's astrophysical and planetary sciences department (my department) are way down this year. The application deadline is this Thursday, so perhaps we will get a flood of applications in the next 3 days, but it looks like applications will be down by about 25%. Apparently astrophysics isn't what people run to in a bad economy.


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