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Dylan R. Card, Heather S. Sussman, and Ajay Raghavendra
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Dylan R. Card, Heather S. Sussman, and Ajay Raghavendra

Abstract

Graduate school provides an opportunity for students to enhance their knowledge and skill sets and to develop the qualifications to seek high-skilled employment. However, many graduate students are plagued with personal and financial stressors that can decrease research productivity and professional growth. With ballooning student loan debt and economic inflation, stakeholders should review the financial well-being of our current and future graduate students with greater frequency to ensure the continued fast-paced advancement of science. This study investigated the annual stipend, university fees, housing costs, cost of living, and the state income tax rate of 39 atmospheric science graduate programs in the United States to determine the effective income for first-year graduate students in the 2020–21 academic year. Results showed a large spread in advertised stipend amounts ranging between $19,139 and $41,520 (USD). After taking into account annual university fees, housing costs, and state income tax and normalizing by the cost of living, effective income had a decreased spread ranging between $12,287 and $25,240. Prospective graduate students should not focus on the advertised stipend when deciding between schools since it does not always accurately represent the affordability of the graduate program. The future of scientific research relies on the next generation of scientists. Therefore, graduate programs across the country should focus on providing fair financial compensation in order to attract students with exceptional research skills who otherwise may leave academia to pursue higher-paying jobs after college.

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