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In This Issue

       

Financial aid seen as crucial to attract talented graduate students to Wichita State

The WSU Foundation is working to create more fellowships to strengthen postgraduate programs

Kerry Wilks and Samuel Worthington
Kerry Wilks, interim dean of the Graduate School, works with her graduate student, Samuel Worthington, on a research project. Worthington is the recipient of the Heskett Fellowship. Despite receiving financial aid, he still works full-time while carrying a full academic load and working as Wilks’ assistant.

Many people are aware of the student loan debt problem in this country. But few understand how severely it affects graduate students in particular.

Unlike undergraduates, graduate students start paying interest on their loans the minute the check hits their bank account, says Kerry Wilks, interim dean of the Graduate School at Wichita State University. The interest for undergraduate students is deferred until after they leave school.

Additionally, graduate students don’t have access to Pell grants, which help millions of undergraduate students. The stark reality: It’s estimated that 40 percent of this country’s $1.2 trillion student loan debt is carried by postgraduate students, even though they make up only 20 percent of higher-education students.

That’s why it’s so important for universities to do everything they can to make graduate studies more affordable for this very important category of student, Wilks says.

“To have a competitive graduate program, you have to have funds to recruit high-achieving students,” she says. “Even if a student wants to come to WSU, we don’t want there to be a roadblock because we don’t offer the same funding package that other schools do. We don’t want to lose these talented students.”

Increasing aid for graduate student fellowships is one of the priorities of the WSU Foundation’s comprehensive campaign. The Foundation has a goal of raising $2.5 million to establish more fellowships, which are scholarships for graduate students. Another priority is raising $2.5 million for assistantships, awarded to graduate students in exchange for work they do, usually with faculty.

Graduate students, Wilks says, are vital to the lifeblood of a university. They teach undergraduate students and free up faculty to focus on other important work. They provide indispensable research assistance to faculty. And they work with local industry in their field or discipline.

“By bringing these driven students to campus, you’re not just benefitting that student,” she says. “You’re benefitting the undergraduate students they teach and inspire, the faculty with whom they conduct research and the partners in our community with whom they collaborate. It’s a ripple effect that is much larger than you may imagine.”

circle arrow If you would like to learn more about providing financial aid to graduate students, contact Joseph Hunter, WSU Foundation vice president for development, at 316-978-3808 or josephl.hunter@wichita.edu.