Suppose that an international grad student at one of the University of California campuses got an offer letter:

Congratulations! On behalf of the Committee on Admissions and Awards and the Graduate Group in (Department name), I am pleased to offer you the following financial support for the upcoming 4 years. The funding will be in the form of a Graduate Student Researcher, Fellowship and Teaching Assistant...The details of your award are as follows:

Summer Support with Professor X (3 months at $5000.00 per month) $15,000.00

But the student's first summer paycheck amount is only around $4000 (before tax). An email to the professor got an answer saying "The pay check amount is true. Sorry, there is no more fund available for you at the moment!"

Can a professor behave like this? Why the offer letter of the university with the signature of the Department chairman below it, specifies some amount of money but the pay check is in different amount? Is such a thing legal? If not, what is the appropriate 1st step to remedy it?

1 Answer 1


We can't possibly explain why, you would have to ask them for an explanation. It is a bit on the legally-questionable side, but that really depends on what all is in the letter, and what other letters you got. The Committee on Admissions and Awards and the Graduate Group in X almost certainly is not authorized to make official offers on behalf of the university, and it is likely that there is some disclaimer wording in the letter. However, in general a letter of offer and your acceptance constitutes a contract, and in failing to provide the level of compensation promised, they would have breached that contract.

  • This maybe the problem with the edit of the question. While this answer is informative, it doesn't technically answer the original question. "Is this legal" was only rhetorical in the original. The actual question was what would be a good way to seek redress.
    – grovkin
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 6:02
  • The offer letter was the only thing I got from the university and after I accepted the offer and signed and sent it to the university they registered me as their student and I didn't sign any other contracts.
    – user37953
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 17:08
  • Well, if you did not receive anything from the university e.g. the graduate school (as opposed the letter from the department), then this is procedurally very strange. You can file an official grievance within the university seeking compliance, but ultimately it is likely to require a lawyer and a lawsuit.
    – user6726
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 17:18
  • Today for the second time I got a pay check lower than what I expect from my offer letter. I don't know what can I do? It's expensive to me to hire a lawyer. I am just a new PhD student in the US but they didn't kept their promise.
    – user37953
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 5:20
  • 1
    @ensan3kamel: If you've escalated through the university, gotten no satisfaction from it, and you have everything in writing, then I would suggest that your next step might be filing a grievance with the department of labor. If you don't have everything in writing, get it in writing first.
    – Kevin
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 8:33

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