Doctorate students face housing and food insecurity

Doctorate students say that they need more assistance with living costs in the Boca Raton area.


FAU Research Park sign. Photo courtesy of Alex Dolce.

Lucila Solari, Contributing Writer

FAU offers over one hundred graduate degrees, and graduate certificate programs to students around the world. Some of these doctorate programs include counseling education and supervision, electrical engineering, complex systems and brain sciences, business administration, special education, and a vast array of programs offered in the graduate college. 

Students in these programs are offered the opportunity of being in assistantships –a way to finance their graduate education while also being given professional experience to benefit them later in their intended work field. Additionally, FAU awards several students fellowships on an annual basis. 

Cost of Attendance for the 2023-2024 Academic Year for Florida residents. Sourced from FAU Cost of Attendance page.

However, FAU is located in an expensive city with a growing population and rising costs of living. 

Graduate students are rarely offered on-campus housing, causing them to pursue the housing market of Boca Raton for living arrangements. Students are already responsible for financing their education, then the necessities of basic living come into action, including medical bills, groceries, transportation, rent payments, networking conferences and other individual personal necessities. It contributes to a new level of stress. 

Every Ph.D. student is offered a 20 hour assistantship earning a salary of $26,000, Stephen Hoover, a third-year complex systems and brain sciences Ph.D. student, said.

“Rates need to go up, to be more sensible in this area. At other universities, such as FIU, Graduate teacher assistantships are guaranteed the entire Ph.D. program, and a package is offered. While at FAU it is semester by semester allocated- more stressful,” says Maria Alayza, a freshman international Ph.D. student in counseling education and supervision. 

The offered amount of assistantships varies on the individual’s correlated graduate college. 

A research graduate assistant is an opportunity that is offered and more preferred at FAU, rather than a graduate assistant. As with research assistants, it generates research income rather than a graduate assistant as there are more opportunity costs and benefits for FAU’s well being. 

Asher Iqbal, a senior Ph.D. international student in electrical engineering, refers to the stipend offered as not being enough, due to the costs of living in Boca Raton. 

“Exploitation is going on as there are students who are doing research but are not receiving the accredited payment of a research assistant rather a teacher’s assistant payment,” Iqbal said. 

Teacher’s assistants spend more than what they receive, work extra hours, and do not make enough money to survive in the Boca Raton area.

Cost of living off campus over time. Courtesy of Stephen Hoover.

Hoover has researched and gathered data for the living costs and finances that doctorate students face that aren’t represented.

The availability of affordable housing is far less than the calculated representation of FAU students. With this, it leads Ph.D. students to struggle to get off-campus housing, and without making a sensible rate for income, they are not allocated the opportunity of signing a lease. Cost of attendance is measured by FAU for only 9 months, but to be more inclusive of students it should be measured at 12 months. 

For rent to not be a burden to Ph.D. students, they would need to be provided a stipend of $77,493, as said by the rent burden guidelines by the United States of Housing Development. 

It is also known that there is a 10 year plan for FAU, however, this plan does not include graduate housing. Once more leaving a vast amount of students who create research and provide benefits to the university to deal with the rising housing costs of South Florida. 

“The university could solve its cost of graduate living problem and meet its objectives if provided subsidized housing in the 10 year plan but they, unfortunately, don’t,” Hoover states, who has an assistantship and lives off-campus. 

Students also face a food scarcity problem as they are choosing to pay for a roof over their heads rather than groceries. Student Government has allocated food pantries throughout campus to alleviate this issue, but its sources are limited.

Graduate students can find scholarship opportunities here, here, and here.

Lucila Solari is a contributing writer for the University Press. For more information on this article or others, you can reach Lucila at [email protected].