Cornell University

Universities boost stipends ahead of ruling on grad unions

Several private universities are boosting stipends and benefits ahead of a federal ruling that could clear the way for graduate students to form unions. To some grad students, it's an attempt to persuade them that they don't need collective bargaining to get a raise.

Union backers say pay hikes are nice but what they want most is more control over their work as teaching and research assistants.

"The message isn't that graduate students need more money," said Ben Cohen, who studies biomedical engineering at Cornell University, which recently raised stipends by 2 percent and increased child-care subsidies for graduate students.

"The message is that...