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Graduate assistantship budgeting and growth model

January 31, 2023

Jordan Johnson

Associate Provost, Business Affairs and Analysis, University of Alabama

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

Charge from the provost

When discussing a strategic, mission-aligned need of the Office for Academic Affairs (OAA) with the provost, he recommended I focus this capstone project on reviewing our current graduate assistantship allocation to determine if a re-allocation might be needed. He also asked for a way to incentivize Ph.D. student growth. The final charge was how we accomplish this with minimal budgetary impact.

The process

To go about accomplishing these goals, we set up a task force comprised of OAA, The UA Graduate School, and members from the central budget office. During this process UA also underwent a general education reform vote, so we have tabled the re-allocation review until the gen-ed process is further along. The focus was shifted to incentivizing Ph.D. growth. The group reviewed various sets of internal data and performed multiple budget scenarios, and we were able to determine an optimal path forward.

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The solution

The final proposal was to create a 3:1 incentive for growing the number of Ph.D. students charged off on external funding from contracts or grants. We established a baseline calculation for each department on campus, based on a three-year analysis of the number of research assistants that were charged off on external funding.

The proposal is for every three research assistants charged off on external funds, OAA will provide full funding for an additional Ph.D. student for the department. The new allocation from OAA must be used on a research-focused Ph.D. student. This proposal ties in with multiple pillars of the new UA strategic plan and should result in accomplishing the provost’s initial goal of growing the research enterprise, growing the number of UA Ph.D. students, and being budget neutral.

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Jordan Johnson and others participated in EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship in fall 2022

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