I'm sure I have incomplete information, so some of my sarcasm here might be unwarranted. But that's not going to stop me! From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Tension at Brown University over how Ph.D. students in the humanities and social sciences are financed in the later years of their programs fueled a series of protests on the campus last week, and administrators scrambled to secure money for students who were uncertain about how they would pay for their next year.
Get a job?
Doctoral students at Brown are guaranteed five years of tuition, health insurance, and a stipend starting at about $25,000 a year for living expenses. Starting in 2011, Brown began to require doctoral students in social-sciences and humanities fields to apply for continued support after their fifth year.
Many such students were notified this month that they had been put on a waiting list for funds. The move especially worried international students, many of whom were pressed against a deadline that could have forced them to leave the country if they didn’t secure enough money.
Although as a department chair, I do like the model of centralized university funding for graduate students. Takes a lot of hassle off the departments. And really, I'm all about minimizing hassle.
The concerns raised during the rallies at Brown highlight the uncertainties that Ph.D. students late in their programs often face as they struggle to keep up funds for projects in which they’ve invested years of their lives.
Just so I have this straight. The University has paid you for four years to pursue an education and research project of your own choosing. You have failed to complete the project in a timely manner and are now upset that the University won't pay you to keep not performing?
Such worries could intensify as graduate-school budgets get tighter and universities seek ways to shorten the time to a doctorate.
This is a common theme in almost all graduate programs with which I have experience. How do we get PhD students to finish faster? If we guarantee students continued funding regardless of progress, guess what happens? Students stick around longer. If we shorten the guaranteed funding window, guess what happens? Time to graduation shrinks. But does quality suffer? I can't generalize, but in my experience, time to completion and quality of dissertation are at best uncorrelated and at worst, inversely correlated. Good students have good ideas and good motivation to get the hell out and get real jobs (making more than $25,000 a year). Students who are happy with $25,000 stick around.
And before you think I am getting all high and mighty...
The protesters at last week’s rallies voiced the concerns that the generation of professors and administrators now trying to shorten the time to a Ph.D. did not themselves practice what they preach.
...I finished my PhD in 4 years.
Because I am brilliant of course!
Because my funding dried up!
It's amazing what happens to motivation when someone tells you you have no more money.
In my time at OSU, our department has shortened the average time to PhD completion from 6-ish years to 5-ish years. How? By telling students they are expected to complete in 4-ish years (and funding is unlikely after 4 years).
Incentives improve motivation.
And they reduce costs.
I love efficiency.