Funding for Graduate Studies


Cornell funding packages are formally approved by Cornell University based on the annual projected budgets of the graduate school and the colleges that allocate resources. As a result, each cohort’s funding package (and size) can vary slightly. For legal purposes, the letter of admission, not this website, constitutes the official “contract” between the prospective graduate student and Cornell University.

Cornell funding packages typically offer five years of support, covering all tuition and providing a stipend for living expenses (including during the summer). In recent years, the field has been able to support students beyond their fifth year, usually through grant-funded graduate research assistantships.

Some students are also admitted with funding that they secure from foundation and government sources, and other students are admitted in collaborative arrangements with other units at Cornell. Students who apply for admission to the field of sociology have the opportunity to be considered for at least two additional sources of guaranteed funding: the IGERT training program for Food Systems and Poverty Reduction and the Department of Policy Analysis and Management.


Internal fellowships:

The most common form of Cornell funding is the Cornell University Fellowship, known as the SAGE fellowship. The fellowships cover tuition and provide a stipend for living expenses. In the first year and the “dissertation year,” students are not expected to work as a Teaching Assistant, Research Assistant, or Graduate Research Assistant. During the other three years, the student is required to work as a TA, RA, or GRA.

Special fellowships are also available from the Graduate School for qualified applicants from under-represented minority groups. These require a supplemental application essay, submitted at the same time as the other application materials.

External fellowships:

Many of our students have been successful in national competitions for external graduate fellowships sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Jacob Javits Foundation, and others. The Graduate School maintains a fellowship database to help students find fellowships for which they are qualified.

The University also offers fellowships in Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, and European Studies. Students can combine work in sociology with language area studies. Application for support should be made to the director of the relevant area program at Cornell.

Many of these external fellowships are intended for students who are citizens or nationals of the United States. Applicants from foreign countries should seek aid from their own governments or universities or from a U.S. agency operating abroad, such as the Institute for International Education or the Fulbright-Hays Program. The advising center at the applicant’s undergraduate school may assist in the search for funding of graduate study.

Recipients of the Sage Fellowship are required to have written and submitted an external fellowship or grant proposal before their 8th semester. This is to encourage all students to pursue external funding. (In exceptional cases for which there may be no logical external funding organization to which it would be appropriate to write a proposal, the student may write a proposal for an internal Cornell award such as a Graduate School or Einaudi travel grant or may petition for permission to complete an alternative professionalization activity.)

Under certain conditions, external funds can be used to extend the package of guaranteed support from the Field or used in place of the teaching assistantship or research apprenticeship to allow the recipient to focus on research.

Dissertation Support

Students are strongly encouraged to obtain external financial support that can be used to pay research expenses, conduct field research for the dissertation, or provide additional support for the dissertation research. Many of our students have, for example, received NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants or international travel grants from the Einaudi Center to support their doctoral research. Information about other sources of support can be found in the Graduate School’s fellowship database and from the DGS.

Other Funding Sources

Graduate students often receive additional funding to support their pre-dissertation research efforts. The Department has, in recent years, been able to offer students small research accounts to support their pre-dissertation research expenses. Many of our students have also received “seed grants” from the Center for the Study of Inequality to conduct inequality related research, broadly defined. The Center for the Study of Economy and Society also occasionally funds students’ projects. Travel grants are available from the Graduate School for students who are presenting their solo- or co-authored research at national or international conferences. Other pots of money are available around campus for those with the initiative to go after them!

Students applying to our PhD program are eligible to compete for a prestigious Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) that has the theme of Food Systems and Poverty Reduction. This IGERT, managed by Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development, provides 2 years of generous financial support to successful candidates and offers supplementary training for students in the first 1-2 years of their doctoral program. By undertaking supplementary coursework and participating in a unique 6 month field research experience in Africa, selected students learn to work as members of interdisciplinary teams and to integrate concepts and methods from across food system-related disciplines in both the natural and social sciences. This highly competitive, National Science Foundation program can only provide financial support to US citizens or permanent residents. For more information, please visit the program website at