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Actions to Address Rising Cost of Living

This message was sent to all Ph.D. students on June 27, 2022.

Dear Ph.D. students,

I know the current inflation and the increase in the local cost of living in recent years have been affecting all of you and causing serious concerns for many. The Graduate School has been working with university leaders, financial and graduate education leaders from other schools at Duke, and the Graduate and Professional Student Government to develop both immediate and longer-term actions to address those concerns.

Here are some solutions we are working on or have implemented:

In Progress: Plan for Stipend Increases

The most obvious action is to increase Ph.D. stipends. That is the centerpiece of what we are working on. Ph.D. funding comes from numerous sources, many of which are not controlled by The Graduate School, so The Graduate School cannot declare a substantial stipend increase unilaterally. Therefore, we have been working with university leaders and the schools that house Ph.D. programs to develop a plan for raising stipends. We will update you as soon as we have something concrete.

[See August 31 update]

Coming in Fall 2022: One-Time $500 Payment

Thanks to resources from the Provost's Office, The Graduate School will be issuing a one-time $500 payment to all active Ph.D. students in fall 2022. Details on when and how the payment will be distributed are being worked out and will be communicated by the Graduate School Office of Financial Aid ( as soon as the plan is ready. We are grateful to university leaders for providing the resources to make this possible.

[See August 10 update on distribution of the $500 payment]

Done: Increased Funding to Student Resources

Using the funding resources that The Graduate School does control, we are taking the following actions:

In Addition

We are also working with other schools and university offices to pursue additional ideas for reducing financial pain points for students. In the meantime, there are a couple recent developments that will benefit graduate students:

  • Duke has negotiated a 7 percent decrease in the premiums for the Student Medical Insurance Plan, which translates to about $250 in savings for students who are paying the premium.
  • Beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year, Duke graduate and professional students will be able to rent apartments at subsidized rates at Lancaster Commons, an apartment complex reserved for them. The process for obtaining a unit is being developed. Units will be assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis, with priority given to first-year international students. For more information, see the "Subsidized Off Campus Housing" section on this page.

We will continue to update you as our work progresses. In the meantime, please know that we recognize the financial stress you are experiencing, as well as the urgency for action. I am including at the end of this message the members of the task force working on these issues. If you have questions about the task force and its work, please contact Shanna Fitzpatrick (, Senior Associate Dean for Finance and Administration. You can also reach out to the task force members who are in your school.


Paula D. McClain, Ph.D.
Dean of The Graduate School
Vice Provost for Graduate Education


Task Force Working on Stipends and Cost of Living for Ph.D. Students

Graduate School

  • Shanna Fitzpatrick, Senior Associate Dean for Finance and Administration, CFO
  • John Zhu, Senior Director of Communications

Trinity College of Arts and Sciences

  • Carol A. King, Vice Dean for Finance and Administration
  • Justin Wright, Graduate Dean, Professor of Biology

Pratt School of Engineering

  • Aaron Franklin, Associate Dean for Doctoral Education in the Pratt School of Engineering, Addy Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

School of Medicine

  • Beth Sullivan, Associate Dean for Research Training, Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, School of Medicine
  • Charlotte Nunez-Wolff, Senior Director of Internal Consulting & Special Projects, School of Medicine

School of Nursing

  • Sharron Docherty, Director of Ph.D. Program, Associate Professor

Sanford School of Public Policy

  • Marc Jeuland, Associate Professor

University Administration

  • Elinor Landess, Assistant Dean of Students, Off Campus and Community Housing
  • Nate Martinez-Wayman, Director, Sponsored Programs & Cost Analysis, Post-Award Administration