Grad students laud proposed stipend increase, but push for more

Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Higher EducationLegislature

After more than a year of lobbying both on campus and in Carson City, graduate students at UNR and UNLV are on track to receive a $20 million boost in assistantship stipends under Gov. Joe Lombardo’s proposed budget. 

Nicole Thomas, president of UNLV’s Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA), said that officials on every level — from institutional leadership to the Nevada System of Higher Education to Lombardo’s office — “supported basically everything that [graduate students] have asked for.”

But she said the increases still fall short of meeting the increased burden of high costs of living. 

“We're walking, like, a very fine line right now where it's fantastic and wonderful that this was included, but at the end of the day, I think we've been so chronically underfunded, that we still need more,” Thomas said. “And I don't want to be someone that's greedy, but at the end of the day, I think our students — we need to eat.”

Those stipends are paid out to graduate students who work part-time as teaching or research assistants, a small subset of the overall population of the more than 8,000 graduate and professional students statewide. 

However, because they are unable to work other jobs outside of their graduate programs — especially if they are international students, who legally cannot work outside assistantships because of visa restrictions — those students have argued current rates are well below a cost of living that skyrocketed through the pandemic in both Las Vegas and Reno. 

Graduate students from UNR had planned to hit the Legislature on Monday to lobby lawmakers before blizzard conditions shut Northern Nevada down. But Thomas said several dozen UNLV graduate students will descend on the capital Friday to make their push for more stipend dollars. 

But after an extended lobbying campaign, Thomas said her degree of optimism was “much higher” than this time last year.

“Everyone's on the same page about getting graduate students more money, and I think they're finally feeling the urgency that we've been pushing,” she said.

Editor’s Note: This story appears in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2023 legislative session. Sign up for the newsletter here.


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