Optics of coming from a school with funding issues

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The Cinnabon

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Alright SDN, I need some elder wisdom. I've been lucky enough to snag an early formal interview invite at a lab I think I'd make a great fit at, in a decent location. Before anyone asks, no, this isn't a PsyD. I'm actually talking about Rosalind Franklin which has solid match outcomes and small cohorts.

Despite the seemingly solid training and awesome outcomes, its base stipend leaves a lot to be desired. I've been told the specific POI I've been invited by does bring in additional funding to match the stipend to a "grad student standard" and it does still have 100% tuition remission. Another huge piece of this pie is that I have a family member that lives close by who offered to let me stay for my PhD rent free and will let me raid their fridge. So, for my specific case, I would likely get away completely debt-free and actually have a bit more disposable income than I would at other programs.

Still, despite a seemingly awesome match list, I did want some insight on "the optics" of going to a program which has had historical funding issues (even if it's getting better)?

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There's a PhD program that is throwing offers out like 4+ months before anyone else?
Oh no no, I just got a formal interview invite from my POI to be held in Feb, the department RSVP doesn't go out for a good minute here. There are a few other early bird schools like this too that don't have these issues.

Fixed the wording in the original post.
 
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I’m a bit confused by the question.

For my PhD in a southern state with very low cost of living, I got about $750 a month including summers, solid health insurance through the university clinic (basically free) with decent copays for community care, and full tuition waivers. But my program has a very solid record of guaranteeing that for every single person in good standing.

I was able to spend about $350/mo to live with 2 roommates, had an old car that was reliable and paid for, lived within my means and had a little bit of savings prior from working.

So if you think that this funding will reasonably continue and it will be enough for you, then it seems fine. Whereas my program did funding for all students equally (eg grants were to fund research projects and not specific students ), sounds like that program is more PI specific, which isn’t necessarily good or bad.

If you think there could be more fluctuations, I would inquire further with faculty and current/past students post offer. And try to figure out what are circumstances that can lead to changes and how did the program attempt to assist students when those changes happened.
 
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I’m a bit confused by the question.

For my PhD in a southern state with very low cost of living, I got about $750 a month including summers, solid health insurance through the university clinic (basically free) with decent copays for community care, and full tuition waivers. But my program has a very solid record of guaranteeing that for every single person in good standing.

I was able to spend about $350/mo to live with 2 roommates, had an old car that was reliable and paid for, lived within my means and had a little bit of savings prior from working.

So if you think that this funding will reasonably continue and it will be enough for you, then it seems fine. Whereas my program did funding for all students equally (eg grants were to fund research projects and not specific students ), sounds like that program is more PI specific, which isn’t necessarily good or bad.

If you think there could be more fluctuations, I would inquire further with faculty and current/past students post offer. And try to figure out what are circumstances that can lead to changes and how did the program attempt to assist students when those changes happened.
My bad, my specific concern was the optics of going to a "partially funded" program (stipend is min 9.5K, which isn't great for the Chicago suburbs). It's PI dependent with some able to offer more funding than the stipend itself, such as the one I snagged an interview from.

The irony here is that with the POI offering more funding than the minimum and just not having to worry about rent and food costs, that it's probably one of the best financial choices I could make. I just wanted to see if my paranoia was justified (sounds like it isn't) even if they are matching at solid VAMC/AMC internship locations that are pretty competitive.
 
Ah, just the interview invite. As long as its a reputable program, there are really no optics problems.
Sweet!

Yeah its internship match sites have been at pretty competitive VAMCs and AMCs. The stipend just leaves a lot to be desired for the area, I just happen to be extremely lucky with family living near by making it a financially solid choice in my goal of getting away with 0 debt.
 
My bad, my specific concern was the optics of going to a "partially funded" program (stipend is min 9.5K, which isn't great for the Chicago suburbs). It's PI dependent with some able to offer more funding than the stipend itself, such as the one I snagged an interview from.

The irony here is that with the POI offering more funding than the minimum and just not having to worry about rent and food costs, that it's probably one of the best financial choices I could make. I just wanted to see if my paranoia was justified (sounds like it isn't) even if they are matching at solid VAMC/AMC internship locations that are pretty competitive.

Agreed. Optics are not an issue. The question is what are your personal goals? If standard clinical practice is the goal, no problems. If you are looking at something more research-based, I would consider whether the department and the PI are bringing in in enough money and have enough resources that you will be able to establish a solid publication record without any difficulties, be able to travel to conferences, etc.
 
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It's PI dependent with some able to offer more funding than the stipend itself
I'm not personally familiar with this model but my questions would be along the lines of when would a student would find out what their additional funding is.

Is it anticipated that you would have x stipend from the program and y stipend from your PI throughout your entire time in the program? Versus first x years only (which some programs do)? Versus grant funding is conditional on a year by year basis but the program funding is guaranteed? Versus nothing exact is guaranteed ever?

If it's conditional, what are the conditions through which funding would change from year by year? Like, could the PI unliterally decide that they don't like you anymore and give your grant-funded stipend to somebody else in the lab?

And what does your offer letter look like? If it's not in writing, it technically doesn't exist, right?

Again, I'm not actually familiar with this model so this is speculation but maybe others can chime in.
 
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Agreed. Optics are not an issue. The question is what are your personal goals? If standard clinical practice is the goal, no problems. If you are looking at something more research-based, I would consider whether the department and the PI are bringing in in enough money and have enough resources that you will be able to establish a solid publication record without any difficulties, be able to travel to conferences, etc.
The specific POI I applied too is kind of "on a roll" right now with getting some impressive funding. I believe the program and/or my POI offers conference funding and I know for a fact going off his current grad students that they're getting solid publications.
 
I'm not personally familiar with this model but my questions would be along the lines of when would a student would find out what their additional funding is.

Is it anticipated that you would have x stipend from the program and y stipend from your PI throughout your entire time in the program? Versus first x years only (which some programs do)? Versus grant funding is conditional on a year by year basis?

If it's conditional, what are the conditions through which funding would change from year by year. Like, could the PI unliterally decide that they don't like you anymore and give your grant-funded stipend to somebody else in the lab?

And what does your offer letter look like? If it's not in writing, it technically doesn't exist, right?

Again, I'm not actually familiar with this model so this is speculation but maybe others can chime in.
Not an offer, just my first formal interview invite, but I could just as well get rejected. Still, this was a question I wanted to ask people outside of the program. I'll definitely be asking more about additional funding the POI offers their grad students (i'm 90% sure it's soft money from their grants).
 
RFUMS is a strong program. Back when I interviewed there several years ago they only offered 50% tuition remission, so it sounds like things have improved. If you’re coming out of there with no debt, I would have 0 concerns.
 
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RFUMS is a strong program. Back when I interviewed there several years ago they only offered 50% tuition remission, so it sounds like things have improved. If you’re coming out of there with no debt, I would have 0 concerns.
It's 100% tuition remission since 2021, otherwise I wouldn't have applied. The only way I can swallow the lower minimum stipend is that I happen to be fortunate enough to have family living within commuting distance. Even the bare min of around 10K with basically 0 expenses is right around par with some of the programs I applied to that give 20K stipends but I have every expense to take care of (rent, food, etc.).
 
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RF is decent, their EPPP pass rates could definitely be better, but they have a good accredited match rate. I know two neuropsych people from there who are pretty good, so I have no personal qualms there.
 
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It's 100% tuition remission since 2021, otherwise I wouldn't have applied. The only way I can swallow the lower minimum stipend is that I happen to be fortunate enough to have family living within commuting distance. Even the bare min of around 10K with basically 0 expenses is right around part with some of the programs I applied to that give 20K stipends but I have every expense to take care of (rent, food, etc.).

At the end of the day, don't get too far ahead of yourself with the anxiety (I say this as someone that spends too much time researching and analyzing). If you get multiple offers, you can decide what works better for your life and your bottom line. In the end, even if this were the only program you got into, it is a good deal for you.
 
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You are overthinking. This is not worth worrying about.

There is a big difference between a program where you take on 60k in debt per year and one where "The stipend could be better." Chances are no one even knows what the stipend is - I have no idea what they are at my own graduate program anymore. I mean, obviously consider whether this works for you personally, but no one is going to scrutinize things to that degree.
 
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Back when I interviewed I do remember it being fairly common that students took 7 or more years to finish the program despite being advertised as a 4+1 program. That could be for a variety of reasons, but it’s worth asking about/looking into to see if it’s still the case.
 
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Back when I interviewed I do remember it being fairly common that students took 7 or more years to finish the program despite being advertised as a 4+1 program. That could be for a variety of reasons, but it’s worth asking about/looking into to see if it’s still the case.
Will do!

I want to say the main reason I've heard on this was just to make oneself more competitive for competitive internship sites, but it'll be better to hear from current students directly.
 
Agreed with everyone else. Outside of that immediate area and/or people directly familiar with the program, I'd be surprised if many folks reviewing applications even know of the funding situation at schools other than their own.
 
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As someone from that program and know of the lab you're referring to, you'll be just fine. That PI is a strong researcher with consistent funding, so you would be pretty much guaranteed to have additional funding support on top of the stipend. Additionally, RFU has a great reputation in the Chicago area. Practicum sites will reach out to the DCT if they don't have any students applying because they want RFU students specifically. Alum are quite successful as well, even before they improved the funding situation so like others mentioned there really aren't any optics to overcome.
 
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Congratulations on the interview!
 
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As someone from that program and know of the lab you're referring to, you'll be just fine. That PI is a strong researcher with consistent funding, so you would be pretty much guaranteed to have additional funding support on top of the stipend. Additionally, RFU has a great reputation in the Chicago area. Practicum sites will reach out to the DCT if they don't have any students applying because they want RFU students specifically. Alum are quite successful as well, even before they improved the funding situation so like others mentioned there really aren't any optics to overcome.
This is awesome to hear as someone who loves the Chicago area!

Yeah, the PI and lab seem pretty incredible and supportive from everything I've heard so I'm super excited for the interview.
 
This is awesome to hear as someone who loves the Chicago area!

Yeah, the PI and lab seem pretty incredible and supportive from everything I've heard so I'm super excited for the interview.

On to the important considerations, what is your stance on deep dish pizza? Are you a fan or not? Is it really pizza?
 
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  • Haha
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On the important considerations, what is your stance on deep dish pizza? Are you a fan or not? Is it really pizza?
I was raised on lou malnati's, they even opened one in the Milwaukee area a few years back too.

Needles to say, I'm flying back for the holidays on thursday and deep dish will be one of my first 3 meals.
 
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