Working group findings on graduate family support released

Grant for Graduate Students with Children to be introduced 2020-2021

The Graduate Family Support Working Group’s released its final report Feb. 5. The group was charged Fall 2018 to identify the current situation for graduate families, catalog programs of support, and provide information about programmatic or financial changes to address family needs at MIT.

Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz wrote in an email to all graduate students that the Office of the Vice Chancellor (OVC) has been working to “improve the quality of graduate student life and learning at MIT.”

The working group’s final report includes findings from the Graduate Enrolled Student Survey showing that the top sources of stress for students with children are related to caring for family, cost of living, and household responsibilities. The report also cites student feedback as a basis for its findings.

The report describes four main recommendations and summarizes updates that have occurred as a result of the working group’s earlier discoveries. The updates include launching a graduate families mailing list, opening Westgate events to both on and off-campus families, and providing a summer orientation webinar for incoming students with children.

Waitz wrote that the OVC has “the administration’s commitment and School Deans’ support to implement three of the working group’s major recommendations.”

The three recommendations are to hire a designated staff member to coordinate communication, outreach, and programs to assist graduate students with children, to collect data on graduate students with children “administratively and centrally,” rather than rely on survey data, and to offer a need-blind grant called the MIT Grant for Graduate Students with Children. 

PhD and Master’s students in eligible programs will be offered grants of $2,000 to $4,000, depending on the number of children living with the student, beginning in the 2020-2021 academic year. The grant can be “used flexibly to cover expenses such as child and health care and housing,” Waitz wrote.

Waitz also wrote that the goal of the grant is to “alleviate some of the financial pressures MIT graduate student parents face.”

The fourth recommendation made by the report, which was not addressed in Waitz’s email, is to identify family-friendly spaces on campus and hold more family-friendly events. The report wrote that this recommendation would “consider a combination of a family resource center, a family resource office or a designated space with family friendly set up for events.”

Waitz wrote that students who have questions, suggestions, or ideas for how the OVC can continue its efforts to improve graduate student life can directly contact him or staff in the Office of Graduate Education or the Division of Student Life.