Campus News

Ongoing initiative will enhance compensation, benefits for UK graduate students

two students looking at computer screens
File photo: Avery Hartley, left, and Christian Enyoghasi, mechanical engineering graduate research assistants analyzing the surface topography of a high-temperature alloy. Pete Comparoni | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 18, 2022) — This week, the University of Kentucky announced plans are moving forward with the first steps in what will be an ongoing initiative to enhance the compensation and benefits structure for graduate students. UK has approximately 5,500 master’s and doctoral students, according to records from the last academic year.

“Graduate students do so much to make this community a special place. They are students and future leaders in their fields,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “They also provide significant teaching and scholarship so central to our mission as Kentucky’s university.”

Initial steps being taken include:

  • Beginning this fall, UK tuition scholarships for graduate students will cover all mandatory fees. Most benchmark institutions from initial surveys we’ve conducted are partially paying mandatory fees. Our step in covering all mandatory fees will include graduate assistants, research assistants and teaching assistants.
  • Plans will be announced later this fall to establish a minimum graduate stipend, starting in fiscal year 2024 (which begins July 2023). The goal will be for all units awarding graduate stipends to be at the median level for their discipline, relative to selected national benchmarks.
  • Additionally, later this fall, UK will continue to explore plans for pilot projects in other compensation and benefits areas where we can be better informed about future enhancements to our compensation and benefits so that UK can lead in these matters.

“We need to be more competitive in our support for graduate education and students,” Capilouto said. “These steps are a beginning, not an end, and they will be informed as we move forward by continued research and feedback from our community, including graduate students. “

These initial recommendations are the product of a workgroup commissioned last spring to examine what benchmark institutions and Southeastern Conference schools are doing with respect to graduate student compensation and benefits.

That workgroup — led by Acting Vice President for Human Resources Gina Dugas and Acting Dean of the Graduate School Martha Peterson — will now transition to a permanent committee. The committee will conduct regular survey research and make ongoing recommendations to ensure we are making progress toward being a leader in support for our graduate students.

Currently, more than half of UK graduate programs already provide stipends at or above the median level for their disciplines when compared to national benchmark institutions.

“While this means we have a good base to start from, we acknowledge that there is more work to be done,” Capilouto said. “We are committed to that work. We are committed to advances in this important area.”

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.