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Graduate students want fee waiver

By Julie Wetmore
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
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Last week, graduate students gathered at the Arizona Board of Regents meeting to fight for 100 percent tuition waivers. But top administrators say they won't get what they want for another few years.

With teaching, research, class work, and second jobs on top of that, not paying to go to school would ease the stress that graduates face, said Jani Radebaugh, Graduate and Professional Student Council president.

Sami Sansevere, graduate student, said she is considered the envy of her peers because she ends up with a negative $1 for her monthly budget.

Many other students take out extensive loans and second jobs just to make ends meet, Sansevere said.

Out-of-state tuition waivers have always been granted to students from other states.

But, both out-of-state and in-state graduates must pay in-state tuition. This "fee," appearing on their bursar statement, is over $1,200 and is often unexpected when graduates arrive at the UA.

"The fees come as a big surprise to graduates who have to give back 15 percent of their paycheck as a result," Radebaugh said. "This affects which students decide to come here in the end."

The UA administration is sympathetic to these issues and is working to improve the situation, but the need for funding is hindering immediate progress.

"It's a little too early to tell how much time this will take. I'd like to say we can achieve 100 percent remission in one to two years," said Dick Powell, vice president for research. "But that might be unrealistic because we have no idea about the state budget and tuition rates, which all goes into the mix."

This issue is a moving target, and every year the university tries to do something more for the graduate students, Powell said.

In 2000, a 25 percent fee remission was achieved. Last year, that number moved up to 50 percent.

Comparatively, 12 peer universities offer 100 percent fee and tuition waivers to their graduates, Radebaugh said.

Jennifer Jacovitch, an English Graduate Union member, cited 40 institutions with better pay and benefits as well.

Graduate students at the UA are demanding similar treatment and with the possible tuition increase next year, they are especially concerned, Jacovitch said.

President Peter Likins said the administration will do whatever they can to move forward, possibly trying for a 75 to 100 percent remission, increasing compensation, and setting a more humane workload.

Graduate students might also see increased salaries while they wait for the UA administration to decide on the degree of remission, Powell said.

Powell said he is also concerned about reaching a conclusion that is fair to everyone.

Discrepancies arise because research assistants are paid from professors' grants and teaching assistants are paid by the university itself.

"I make the policy change for the TA's, and I tell the faculty that it's up to them to increase RA's salaries," Likins said.

Radebaugh is concerned that needy graduate students, those who are not TA's or RA's, retain at least the 50 percent waiver, because last year money was taken from their funds to cover the remissions granted to all graduates.

Even so, health care increases have been achieved in recent years, with more money being added each year for childcare vouchers.

Graduate students voiced their personal stories last Thursday during the Arizona Board of Regents' call to the audience.

"We teach 200 sections, which is 25 percent of undergraduate classes, with an average of 25 students each. This number is even higher in the English department," said Sung Ohm, a graduate and EGU member.

Many graduate students teach for 30 hours a week on top of publishing, presenting, and their own class work, he said.

On average, Radebaugh said graduate students make $14,000 a year, which is barely over the poverty line.

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