The University Record, April 16, 2001

LS&A, Provost committed to retain interdisciplinary GSIs within College

By Theresa Maddix

Displaying a continued commitment to undergraduate and graduate education, the Office of the Provost has agreed to fund increases in LS&A’s budget resulting from tuition for GSIs enrolled in departments outside LS&A. LS&A will continue to provide the current level of tuition aid.

Tuition paid by LS&A for GSIs enrolled in other colleges and schools has risen dramatically each year for the past several years. “This component of the LS&A budget,” says Phil Hanlon, associate dean of planning and finance, “increased by $1.23 million from 1996–97 to 1999–00, a 72.5 percent increase.”

LS&A shares “the University’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and the diversity of perspective that comes with having instructors from other schools and colleges,” Hanlon says. For example, he says, LS&A courses such as “Women and the Law” might benefit particularly from the perspectives and training brought by GSIs enrolled in the Law School.

It costs the College significantly more to pay tuition for GSIs from other schools or colleges. For a GSI from the School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE) teaching biology, for example, LS&A would pay a tuition stipend to SNRE. On the other hand, if the GSI were from the Department of Biology, the tuition money would be kept within the LS&A budget.

LS&A is committed to supporting “graduate students by making sure they receive the financial assistance necessary to complete their education,” Hanlon says.

“In recent years, LS&A, together with Rackham, has committed a significant amount to full funding support packages that feature five years of guaranteed support,” he says. As fellowship support for these graduate students increases, the students’ time as GSIs decreases.

Discussions with the Office of the Provost began several months ago “to address our concerns about increasing tuition aid for GSIs enrolled outside of LS&A,” Hanlon says. “The Provost shares our goals of providing the best possible instruction for our undergraduates and the best possible means of supporting our graduate students.”

Out of these discussions, LS&A and the Provost reached an agreement whereby LS&A will continue its current level of funding for GSIs outside of LS&A, and the Provost’s office will fund any increase.

Confusion has surrounded this funding plan as LS&A has shifted to a bottom-line budgeting model. With bottom-line budgeting, each department is responsible for its own budget—deficits and surpluses are carried over to the next year. Although some ability exists to move surpluses and deficits within each department’s four budget areas, resources may not be moved out of the “section” area, where the GSI funding is managed, to address other expenses. Departments who replace their current mix of GSIs with instructors who are enrolled in LS&A or whose tuition is less expensive will not get to use any savings in their regular budget, but may only use those funds for graduate student support, Hanlon emphasizes.

“Department budgets for 2001–02 will include the same support for GSI positions as was spent in fiscal year 2001, with additions for contractual increases in stipend and benefits costs,” Hanlon notes.