Graduate funding questioned
By Katie Warfield
Graduate students at Western may be thanking the Canadian Federation of Students if their newly released Graduate Student Debt Card does its job but the question of whether or not it is necessary is arising.
Last week the CFS provided its 45,000 graduate student members, including 1,800 at Western, with a survey card called the Graduate Student Debt Card. "The goal of the card was to raise awareness of graduate student debts," said Michael Conlon, president of the National Grad Caucus, an affiliate of CFS.
The cards will be filled out by graduate students and then sent back to CFS who will compile the results and pass on the information to the Ontario government to attempt to pursuade them to put more money into government-funded programs.
The need for funding to graduates which Conlon defines, seems unneccesary according to Arnet Sheppard, media officer for the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, one of the government-run grant programs.
NSERC received a 10 per cent increase in funding from last year, increasing their budget to close to $71 million, Sheppard explained.
Rick Oleski, administrative officer for the faculty of graduate studies at Western, explained graduate studies funding comes from either an internal source, directly from the university or from external sources, from government-funded councils like the Social Science and Humanities Research Council and the Medical Research Council.
Oleski said most graduate students accepted to Western are equipped with some sort of financial funding even if that means Ontario Student Assistance Plan loans or a low interest rate bank loan.
"We know that most undergraduates leave university with an average debt of about $25,000 and if they go straight into a graduate program their debts are just going to increase," said Kelly Barrowcliffe, president of the Society of Graduate Students. She added she believes more funding is necessary.
"Receiving and not receiving a grant is sometimes what determines whether people do or do not pursue graduate studies," said Michelle Hartley, a PhD student in English at Western.