I graduated with a PhD after 2 years (I was very efficient) and even though I have already received my degree and moved out of town, I'm still getting a stipend deposited into my bank account. I contacted my advisor about it but my advisor didn't reply at all, so I don't know what to do about this. Is there a minimum funding requirement or something like that? Or is it just a mistake? What to do now?

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    Have you tried contacting the department?
    – oikos99
    Commented Apr 1, 2018 at 22:28
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    The most important thing is to not spend the money until you find out what is going on. If it is a mistake, the school may be able to demand the money back, and that can be awkward if you no longer have it. Commented Apr 1, 2018 at 22:37
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    Hi, no I have not contacted the department yet. Thought I want to check it out with my advisor first. I have still 95% of the money, since this whole moving out thing was harder than I thought and the stipend came at a relief, but I will be able to restore the full amount if demanded back. My question is, is there a minimum residence requirement and hence a minimum duration for the stipend in PhD programs?
    – exp23
    Commented Apr 1, 2018 at 22:46
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    We can't know in your case without knowing your specific employment details. But I can't imagine there being a minimum, and in any case, if you're no longer an employee/student at the university, then receiving the money must clearly be a mistake. Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 0:00
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    The only possible situation where I can see this not being a mistake is when your contract is to work for 9 month (academic year) but your salary is paid over 12. In that case, if you quit after 9 months, you'd keep getting payments for 3 more months, because it's money you've already earned. But I think if that were the case, you'd probably already know and wouldn't have to ask. Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 4:50

4 Answers 4


Contact your department, CC'ing your advisor.

It happened to me once: I was paid over the summer by my department even if I was out of the US for an internship at a company research lab in Europe. I came back in September and found additional money in my US account. I told our administrator. she figured out what happened and she told me that in case I had already spent the money, the department would have found a way to ensure things would get straighten out with the university. I still had all of it, so I just wrote a check to the university to return the money.

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    In any sane jurisdiction, somebody who accidentally overpays you isn't allowed to punish you for their mistake. So you can be required to pay back the money but they have to be careful not to cause you financial hardship. Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 12:31
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    @DavidRicherby: indeed I believe my department (and my somewhat-resource-rich university) also assumed so, and also probably wondered if I could have sued (I wouldn't have, but just in case), and they would have preferred to let the issue go in case I did not have the money.
    – Matteo
    Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 14:12
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    @DavidRicherby Useful information considering the majority of recently-graduated students are entering a workforce with an abysmal expense-to-asset ratio and massive student loans to start paying back!
    – corsiKa
    Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 16:51

This is like someone giving you wrong change or the bank crediting you money incorrectly in your checking account. You need to not spend it, let someone know and give the money back. Two reasons: (1) ethical--don't take money that doesn't belong to you, when given in error and (2) they will likely find out about it and want it back (and legally you have to give back a check or direct deposit sent in error).

Don't contact your professor, contact the payroll or whatever person like that. Make a call and send a letter.

P.s. If your current job overpays you in error, how are you going to handle that? What would you answer if this hypothetical was asked on a job interview?! You know the answer. [This isn't even really an academia question. This is a "what do I do if someone pays me too much in error" question.]

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    It could be possible, but unlikely, that the contract specified 36 monthly payments without any clause to stop them if you finished early... The only thing to do is to contact the payroll people and have your contract checked.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 5:48

Is there a minimum funding requirement or something like that?

This happened in my case. There was a total amount of money dedicated to a project, payed in the form of a stipend. I finished the project earlier but the money continued to come.

Of course you should contact the relevant authorities (the ones who provided the stipend) and inform them about your case. This may be an error, in which case you are likely to be asked to give the money back (what happens depends on many parameters), or you may be in the lucky case I was in.


Contact university finance, your chair’s office, or bursars office. It is very likely you’ll have to pay it back.

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