Adventures in Science and Ethics raised an interesting question today: How are graduate student getting their education funded? When I was first interviewing at graduate programs, I was astounded at the variability in their offered “recruitment package.” It often had very little to do with prestige of the university, cost of living in the city, etc. But all of them offered something on which to live, tuition paid for, and health insurance. I feel quite comfortable on the stipend that Univ. of Michigan gives me (~$25k) and cost of living in Ann Arbor isn’t so bad. My only complaint is no dental insurance, but hey, I’ll let that slide.
So how, you may ask, are universities able to afford giving away free PhD? Or really, PAYING you to get one?? Well, one answer is training grants. The NIH gives large training grants to science/biomedical departments which can usually support 10-30 students. These are highly competitive of course. There also exist individual training grants called NRSAs (I’m in the middle of revising one right now), which a student can apply for directly. Federal money can only go to US citizens (in most cases), so international students will usually end up paying for their graduate education. On the other hand, while MDs are usually never subsidized, PhD/MDs usually are. So there’s a nice way to get your medical education paid for. NSF (National Science Foundation) and DoD (Dept of Defense) grants are also a good way to get funding, although anything related to the military sometimes has string attached.
Therefore if you are a US citizen, and you are PAYING to get a PhD, well stop. You shouldn’t have to. Either the school you’re at didn’t have the clout to get a training grant (which is worrisome) or you didn’t do your homework. Either way, there’s a better way, and you’ll end up with very little student debt in the end of it.