How to negotiate for grad school tuition assistance/funding?
March 12, 2009 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Seeking advice regarding negotiating for funding/tuition assistance from grad schools. In a nutshell, I've been accepted to an MA program but was not extended an offer for a fellowship or any other sort of financial assistance.

(Asking for a friend.)

A few details:

It's a master's program in political science at the University of Missouri at Columbia. I did my undergrad there (archaeology). Furthermore, my dad was a tenured professor at the university for his entire career (now retired). I was born in the town of Columbia and lived there until I was 27, when I moved out of state (9 years ago).

I could potentially make this work without taking any loans or anything, provided that the department give me a break and allow me to at least pay in-state tuition. I'm not sure how to bring the topic up, however. That is, is there a good way to present my situation and ask for their consideration? Is there something I should avoid?
posted by penchant to Education (8 answers total)
You should just ask bluntly and mention that the dad used to be a tenured professor there. Call the financial aid office, which should be separate from the political science department. Just vaguely describe your situation without mentioning any names and ask them what the case is.
posted by anniecat at 10:44 AM on March 12, 2009

Have they for sure told you there will be no assistantships? When I applied to graduate school (in mathematics, to the PhD program, although I was only accepted into the masters program), I received a letter from the graduate school saying I had been accepted into the program, but no mention of funding. A month or two later (one day before I had to tell them whether I was going to the program, in fact) I got the letter saying I had been awarded a teaching assistantship.

Or, could you swing it for a semester, if the program was willing to consider you for a fellowship/assistantship in the spring or in the following year?

It seems to me that it couldn't hurt to call the department and try to suss out the situation. After all, you are considering being a (student) member of the department.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:47 AM on March 12, 2009

Can he ask his father to try and pull some strings? It's not at all rare for professor's kids to get free tuition and such - and even if he's no longer formally covered by the policy, maybe a phonecall to the chair of his old department or the dean's office could lead to something.
posted by kickingtheground at 10:49 AM on March 12, 2009

I'm not sure how long your friend has until she has to say Yes or No for sure, but I got my letter of acceptance--with a NO MONEY FOR YOU HA HA caveat--on March 8 and then, on April fifteenth, I got an e-mail offering me my funding. Someone else turned them down, apparently, and I got their money. This was for an MA/PhD in English, though, so maybe it works differently.

So...maybe there's still time?
posted by Neofelis at 10:54 AM on March 12, 2009

you need to check for assistantships if you're going to be a student full-time (9 hours a semester); i know my program (library science) lists graduate assistant positions (that come with tuition wavers) on there. once you sign up and tell it you're in the graduate poli sci program, any poli sci assistantships should be visible to you. there's also at least a few general "communications" assistantships you could be in the running for. check with your advisor, too. that's what they're there for.

and, at least with my department, financial aid isn't figured out until wayyyy after acceptance letters are sent out. like a month or two after acceptance. so i wouldn't bank on not getting anything just yet.

congrats on getting in, and good luck with your financial aid. enjoy living near shakespeare's for another few years. i know i will.
posted by almostmanda at 11:07 AM on March 12, 2009

From experience, the financial aid department is not usually involved in assistantships and are usually notified by a particular department if a student qualifies. In other words, I think it would be best to take your case to the department as you mentioned. You might also want to speak to someone in the alumni department since you did your undergrad there. Do any of your dad's colleagues still work there? You could ask them for advice, see if they could pull any strings for you. In other words, I would avoid going to financial aid, because they won't view your situation (i.e. your/your family's history) as something to be taken into consideration when they go to package your aid.

Good luck!
posted by patientpatient at 1:05 PM on March 12, 2009

Talk to the department. I know of at least one department (albeit in a different field at a different university) which this year is not promising its admitted students any funding; they still expect to fund some students, but with the economy they're not sure how many and they're not sure how many students will decide to come and etc etc, so they're just going to wait until they arrive and then see what to do.

So, seconding others in saying that the department may well have money which they simply haven't committed yet. You'll get a better sense of this by asking.
posted by wyzewoman at 2:14 PM on March 12, 2009

In my experience, MA level assistantships are rare.
posted by k8t at 4:03 PM on March 13, 2009

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