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Graduate teaching assistants to get tuition waivers

By Sarah Battest
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday Jan. 22, 2002

Research assistants still waiting for departments to approve stipend increases

In an attempt to fulfill long-awaited requests for tuition compensation, graduate teaching assistants will receive partial tuition waivers in addition to their stipends beginning this semester.

This spring, TAs who work more than 20 hours a week and take seven or more credits will receive a 25 percent tuition waiver.

TAs who take the minimum six credits and work less than 20 hours per week will receive a 12.5 percent tuition waiver.

Graduate teacher and research assistants who are out-of-state students also receive tuition waivers, but are required to pay a registration fee of $2,500 if they take seven or more credit hours.

Kirsten Price, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, said she was pleased funds were allocated for graduate students, but said she also believes it to be a mixed blessing.

"People think that this was an unused pot of money," Price said. "We chose to accept (the funds), gracefully, not as a big victory. There are still other items facing additional cuts."

Graduate College Dean Gary Pivo said he is optimistic graduate students will eventually get a full tuition waiver, but he worries budget cuts may prevent the waivers from coming through.

"There are other priorities that supersede this, like retaining teacher's assistant positions and classes for undergraduate students," Pivo said. "We have to put saving jobs before salary increases."

Some TAs say although they appreciate the partial tuition waivers, their stipends are still not large enough to cover basic expenses. The average stipend for a TA is $13,500 per year, which some say is forcing them to search for alternative funding.

"It always seems ridiculous that we have to take out loan money," said Jesse Costantino, a doctoral student in English. "It's part of the paradox of being a student and a teacher."

Tuition stipend increases at Ivy League universities have created a gap between the graduate student aid offered by public and private universities.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the average stipend for a graduate teaching assistant at Princeton University is $15,600 a year. At many of the nation's public universities, stipends hover around $10,000 a year.

In the University of California system, which is widely regarded as the nation's best public university system, stipends are more competitive - about $14,000 a year.

Stipends vary based on the cost of living in an area, and universities have struggled to remain competitive to attract potential graduate students.

Costantino said one of the reasons he chose UA was because of the funding given to him.

Graduate research assistants will receive a plan comparable to teacher's assistants, but are not guaranteed their stipend increase in part because their funding comes from research grants.

TAs who have paid for this spring semester will receive a check reimbursing them for the waiver for which they qualify.


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