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Graduate assistantships on the rise

When first arriving to VSU, Dr. Patrick J. Schloss, president of the university, said that his goal was to make VSU a nationally recognized university. Last year, he and the budget committee took steps towards reaching that goal by giving $700,000 to VSU’s Graduate School. Described as “strategic funding” by the committee, the allocation created about 53 graduate assistantships for the graduate students of VSU.
“The president looked at the budget in May 2009,” Dr. Karla Hull, Dean of Graduate School for VSU, said. “He said that he had some money pooled and asked if we could put this into the program and make more graduate assistants.”
With the additional funds, Dr. Hull and her team did just that. They contacted every program in VSU to inform them that the graduate school had openings for new graduate assistants. Every department had the opportunity to send in their job requests. Those that were accepted were added to the graduate school online “job bank,” which allows grad students to search and apply for open positions. From there, the professors whom the students would be assisting can see who has applied for what position and choose which student gets the job.
Job descriptions and pay vary from program to program. This is because some programs are funded by multiple sources. A graduate assistant funded by the graduate school program earns between $727 and $1,680 for supporting an instructor. Assistants under the College of Education, however, earn around $3,000. Dr. Hull also explained that any assistant earning over $4,000 is usually involved in research being carried out by a department (e.g. Biology).
“It was important to attract a wider range of students,” said Dr. Hull. “We didn’t make jobs for the sake of jobs. These jobs had to be relevant.”
By Fall 2009, the results of this effort spoke for themselves.
Last semester, the graduate school enrolled 1,782 students. Out of those students, 216 of them had a graduate assistantship and earned, on average, $3,224 a semester, which was a noticeable difference from the 2008 fiscal year, which had only 163 positions available to graduate students. The additional jobs on campus gave last year’s graduates incentive to continue their academics at VSU.
“Originally, I didn’t even consider grad school,” Meghan Woods, English major and current graduate assistant for Dr. Deborah Hall, said. “I was working as a chiropractor when I graduated VSU. I was offered the assistantship and couldn’t pass it up.”
Like Meghan Woods, the high majority of enrolled graduate students completed their undergraduate program at VSU. Though the original idea was to attract students from other universities, VSU is expected to benefit from the higher number of assistantships. Not only does VSU lose fewer graduates to other schools, the Office of Strategic Research and Analysis revealed that VSU gets back $5,000 for every graduate assistant.
Because of future budget cuts, Dr. Hull does not anticipate the number of graduate students or assistantships to increase like last year. However, she does not expect the number to decrease.
“Many schools might cut assistantships, but not VSU,” said Dr. Hull. “We are receiving several grants for several programs that requested strategic focus for their graduate students.”
If you are interested in or have questions about VSU’s graduate program, you can contact the Graduate School at (229)-333-5694.

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