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Guest Commentary: Promising signs for grads as UA changes direction

By Pete Morris
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday March 10, 2003

This week's Graduate Student Appreciation Week will be like no other in the history of the University of Arizona. It comes on the back of the highest tuition increases in our university's history, the proposed elimination of the Dean of the Graduate College and many policy proposals that cause concern in the graduate student community.

These issues have, rightly, created an atmosphere of apprehension about the future of graduate education at the University of Arizona, but the actions of many graduate students to make their voice heard give me great hope for what graduate students can expect at the UA in the coming years.
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The regents are opening up the idea of a tuition se

-aside pool that is allocated for needy graduate students.

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On the tuition issue, the Graduate and Professional Student Council committed itself to pursuing protection for two important sections of the graduate student population: graduate assistants and needy students.

Our work on graduate assistant protection saw the administration commit an additional $600,000 to the funds available for graduate student protection next year. I am convinced that the resources that the central administration has committed to graduate students, along with increased contributions from the principal investigators who supervise research assistants, will be sufficient to provide complete protection for all graduate assistants. GPSC is still working to see those commitments made in the form of 50 percent in-state tuition remission for all graduate assistants (teaching and research) who work half time or more and 40 percent remission for all GAs who work less than half time, beginning in fall 2003.

In addition to the reassuring indications about next year, GPSC has opened an active dialogue with university administrators at the UA and ASU. An increase of tuition remission to 75 percent by fall 2004 is projected, and ASU President Michael Crowe has already committed to 100 percent remission by fall 2005. These facts show that this year's tuition increase is really the first step toward better compensation for graduate assistants and better investment in graduate education at the UA.

I am also personally proud of the commitment that the UA has made to graduate student need-based aid. Our university stands alone in the state of Arizona in its significant commitments to increasing access to grad school for needy students who are unable to gain an assistantship. Next year will see at least $700,000 (and as much as $1.1 million) available to completely protect our most needy graduate students and offer partial protection to many others. UA administrators and the regents are also opening up to the idea of a tuition set-aside pool that is allocated exclusively to needy graduate students. This would be an ongoing financial commitment to access and support for needy graduate students at the UA.

These achievements are not to discount the problems that graduate students still face at the UA. GPSC will continue to work on the issues of TA workload, GA compensation packages, affordable dental care, and adequate childcare support. I am thankful for the activities of many graduate students this year in expressing their views to the administration and the regents (10 percent of research assistants e-mailed university administrators and the regents in a 24-hour period last Wednesday!). It is the voice of those people that has made such a difference in new commitments to the place of graduate education and the quality of graduate student support at the UA this year.

I encourage all grad students to come out and enjoy the Graduate Student Appreciation Week events, meet your representatives and let us know how we can further support your interests at the UA in the coming years.

Pete Morris is the president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council and is a masters' candidate in the American Indian Studies Program. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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