CARES OF THE UNIVERSITY
Financial Support of Graduate Students
A 1986 White House Panel chaired by David Packard concluded that the intimate connection between education and research has been fundamental to the production of creative scientists and engineers. The panel's report deplored the change in the way the federal government viewed its involvement with universities and university-based research: "From an emphasis on long-term investment there has been a progressive shift to a procurement approach and philosophy." What was true a decade ago is even more true today as we continue on the path of decreased investment in the country's future and in institutions that combine the rigorous search for truth with the excitement of frequently serendipitous discovery and the innovation that follows from the combination of new knowledge and fresh minds. Charles Vest, president of MIT, has pointed out that at present the United States spends only one quarter of one percent of all federal outlays on genuine research and development.
Even this level of financial support, upon which many of our graduate students traditionally have relied, is threatened. We must find ways to continue to make graduate education attractive to the nation's most talented students and to attract the very best of them to Stanford. This is particularly true in disciplines--especially science and engineering--in which many students have been supported almost entirely by sponsored research funds. In the humanities, most students receive support through teaching assistantships and fellowships paid for from general funds.
After discussions with the provost and the Cabinet, and upon the recommendation of Charles Kruger, vice provost and dean of research and graduate policy, and a faculty steering committee on Ph.D. fellowships, in 1997, I allocated $10 million to begin Stanford Graduate Fellowships: a national competition for up to one hundred new three-year fellowships in the sciences and engineering to be awarded each year. We also began raising funds to provide permanent support for this program, with the goal of raising at least $200 million in endowment. I am pleased to report that, in little more than one year, and as of this writing, we have raised $115 million toward this goal.
The purpose of the Stanford Graduate Fellowships is to attract the finest graduate students possible and to give those students full freedom to pursue their work at Stanford without worrying about the vagaries of sponsored research or other traditional sources of support. Students will be freer to determine their own course of research rather than having to select a project based on available funding. Knowledge that such graduate-student funding is available also should prove attractive to young faculty we wish to recruit. When fully implemented, the proposed program will provide support, at a minimum, for three hundred students per year, equal to roughly one-half of our current federal funding for research assistantships. For the first class of one hundred, three-year Stanford Fellows in 1997-98, each award consists of a $12,000 tuition grant and a $16,000 stipend per year. Where a student receives the offer of a Stanford Graduate Fellowship while also having been successful in the competition for a National Science Foundation Fellowship or another nationally competitive fellowship, we urge the student to accept the latter and provide an additional $3,800 to $10,000. The program is organized as an internal competition, thus assuring that the fellowships go to provide support to the best graduate students, regardless of discipline.
This past spring we admitted the first class of Stanford Graduate Fellows. Our overall acceptance rate of 56 percent was significantly higher than the Faculty Steering Committee had expected for such outstanding students who had multiple offers from leading universities.
While the Stanford Graduate Fellowships were designed to address the uncertainties of federal government support, I am also greatly concerned about the level of fellowship support for graduate students in the humanities and some of the social sciences. In the past, we have supported them from general funds and with the help of the Mellon Foundation, one of the few private foundations that continues to be firmly devoted to higher education. The Mellon grant is nearing its end, and competition among universities for the best graduate students is intense. Stanford faces special pressures given the expensive Bay Area housing markets and their impact on graduate students, postdoctorate fellows, and, for that matter, faculty and staff.
Finally, we are seeking endowment to bring annually twenty-five of the most promising graduate students from the Asia/Pacific area to Stanford for graduate study. The Asia/Pacific Scholars Program will begin in 1997-98 on an experimental basis until full funding has been secured.