Graduate student stipends on our campus were low, and our new president increased some stipends. This applied to our department. However, I figured out it only apply to the new students. So we are currently getting paid $1,800 per month, they will get paid $2,200 per month for recruitment purposes.

What would be the best way to approach this, so that current student can also get an increase?

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    I'm surprised they can do this at a state university. Shouldn't everyone be treated the same?
    – Buffy
    Mar 31, 2019 at 23:33
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    @Buffy Probably depends on state laws; though I don't see anything in the OP specifying that this is a public/state university (low salary implies it, granted). If there's no union then everyone negotiates their contract on their own, and ostensibly there's nothing wrong if one or more people negotiate a better contract than other people do, as long as there are no discrimination violations. Apr 1, 2019 at 0:49
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    @zibadawatimmy, see the OP's profile.
    – Buffy
    Apr 1, 2019 at 0:52
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    Check to see if you have a graduate student union at your institution, and if not then check for the student government association. Salary inversion isn't rare among faculty, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that it might also become a thing with graduate stipends. I'd like to think the people making the decision to do this weren't unaware it might cause a problem, but one never knows what they considered and if they planned how they would react when the complaints started to roll in.
    – BrianH
    Apr 1, 2019 at 1:08
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    For research assistantships, it might well be impractical to rebudget for the higher stipends. Apr 1, 2019 at 3:21

2 Answers 2


Assuming the poster is in the United States:

  1. You can request a salary increase. Sometimes requests are granted.
  2. You can leave the university to get higher pay elsewhere.
  3. You can organize students in to a union, which will strike if an acceptable salary is not provided by the university. Most universities in the United States do not have a graduate student union which negotiates an employment contract. These are different from the student union which offers campus recreation at universities in the United States.

On your own, a PhD student has very little bargaining power.


I believe that student unions exist precisely for the purpose of wage disputes. Perhaps you could get involved with your local student union and see if they have any thoughts about the issue.

  • The asker appears to be in the United States, where a "student union" does not usually negotiate wages. This would be correct in parts of Europe, I think. May 4, 2019 at 2:40
  • @AnonymousPhysicist: "student union" is an overloaded term in the US. It is the correct term for what the answer is saying, but the answer's usage is not the only concept for which the term is applied.
    – Ben Voigt
    May 4, 2019 at 20:50

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