This is a note for all prospective PhD students who may be applying to Texas Christian University’s English Department. I can be contacted via email at email@example.com if you’d like to discuss this further. If any of these aspects change, as I hope they do, I will update this post accordingly and make explicit note of those changes.
Although the department may inform you that it’s possible to complete your degree in four (4) years, this is simply not the case for the vast majority of PhD students who come to TCU. The average time to PhD for the TCU Department of English is 5.95 years (from 2000 to 2017). In other words, the timeframe of guaranteed funding (four years) is insufficient for the majority of graduate students who come into the program. Do not fall for the glitter and glam you get exposed to on “visit day.”
the health insurance
The health insurance that will be advertised in your acceptance letter or on any official TCU correspondence will more than likely not put into writing the following: (1) it is student health insurance, (2) it is pretty good coverage for prescriptions, (3) it operates on a reimbursement system. On the third point, this will affect you directly if you (a) cannot pay for the costs up-front or (b) go to the student health clinic. If you choose to go to the health clinic to get your prescriptions, they will charge it to your student account. If you have the resources to ensure that you won’t rely on your health insurance reimbursement checks before paying down your student account, this may not impact you as directly. Read the health insurance benefits by clicking here.
The stipends offered by the Department of English ($20,000) are significantly less than the living wage, as calculated by MIT for Tarrant County, Texas. The living wage, as determined by MIT, is $24,438. This is an estimate for one, able-bodied single adult. Unless the department and the university administration act before February 2020 (the time budgets get decided), this will not change. Click here for more details and data. This information will not be posted on the Department’s official website.
Fifth-year funding is not guaranteed; furthermore, there are very, very limited fifth-year positions available. This puts graduate students in the Department of English into a hyper-competitive environment that has been – and continues to be – leveraged to manipulate and intimidate graduate students in the Department. If you are disabled, queer, or marginalized in a way that doesn’t fit the white, cis-het, able-bodied normative expectation of a graduate student, please consider whether you can finish in four-years. If you cannot, I would suggest not applying to this program. This Department has a history of pushing and freezing disabled people and Black women out of its programs.
summer teaching/summer work
Summer work is assigned based on seniority and it prioritizes international students. The latter is a positive note; however, this is another point of leverage that tends to place graduate students in competition with one another (see above). Also, graduate students who speak out are frozen out or pushed out – either directly or indirectly through intimidation tactics and more obscure forms of (passive) aggression.
Starting in June 2020, our monthly pay will be cut by approximately $550/month. This is due to the switch from a nine-month pay cycle to a twelve-month pay cycle. While the switch is a positive step, we are going to be experiencing a huge cut in monthly pay and many of us are unsure how we are going to afford our bills (even more so than we currently are).