May 8, 2018

Postdocs and affordability

Throughout the long-range planning process, we have been reminded of the great value that our postdoctoral scholars bring to faculty and to the university. Numerous submissions and white papers also highlighted the fact that postdocs face significant affordability challenges. In particular, the high cost and limited availability of housing and childcare were reported to be significant challenges.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne and I will be sharing next steps on the long-range vision for Stanford later this month, addressing a wide range of issues across the university. Today, however, I’m writing about one specific action we are taking to help our postdoctoral scholars. The need for our Principal Investigators to budget for next year makes it important to get this information out as soon as possible.

As a first step in helping our postdoctoral scholars with their affordability challenges, effective September 1, 2018, the new postdoctoral minimum salary will be $60,000 across all levels of experience. This is an increase from the current $53,406 minimum.

While we hope this initial step is welcomed by the postdoc community, I realize that it also will bring pressure on individual faculty PIs. In order to assist with this unanticipated increase — and to ensure that no postdoc is terminated because of it and outstanding offers can be honored — mitigation funds will be available to PIs in cases of need from departments, school deans, and the Provost’s Office, in that order. This “local funds first” approach enables school deans to customize their approaches and work with department chairs to assist faculty who will need mitigation.

Looking ahead, we anticipate that annual increases to the minimum salary will keep pace with inflation, and may even go beyond it. In addition, I am committing $1.6 million as two years of support for the Financial Hardship Fund, which will provide institutional support for postdocs who are facing particularly difficult financial circumstances, especially given the high costs of childcare and housing in this area.

I know, however, that affordability will continue to be a challenge for many in our campus community. We will be announcing an effort to look at additional affordability measures for our campus community as one of the many next steps in the long-range planning process.