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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tuition remission OK’d by Shelton

    Graduate teaching assistants and research assistants can stop worrying about getting their tuition in on time once the 2008-2009 school year begins: They won’t have to pay any of it.

    Paul Thorn, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, announced last week that President Robert Shelton has agreed to increase to 90 percent tuition remission for next year, and 100 percent the year after.

    The rate this year is 80 percent, meaning that graduate students who work half-time as teaching assistants or research assistants only have to pay the remaining 20 percent of in-state tuition. Out-of-state tuition is already covered for all graduate student assistants.

    The decision to move toward full tuition remission came during the administration of former UA President Peter Likins, who called for 10 percent increases every year, Provost George Davis said.

    He said Likins formulated his plan for full remission four years ago, during a time of intense budgetary cuts and setbacks for the university.

    “”I think the juxtaposition of those two situations underscored how important Peter felt it was to create a more attractive environment for graduate students,”” Davis said.

    Davis said Shelton’s stamp of approval on Likins’ plan will make the UA more attractive to recruits, as well as bolster retention by making it easier for graduate students to stay.

    “”It’s really good news,”” said Andrew Winslow, a graduate student in English. “”And it’s about damn time.””

    Thorn said achieving full remission has been one of GPSC’s goals for a long time, and he feels relieved to see “”the plan’s finally come to fruition.””

    An informal union for graduate assistants in the English department has also been pushing the issue for many years, Winslow said.

    Thorn said full tuition remission is better than giving teaching and research assistants larger salaries, since remitted tuition money cannot be taxed.

    “”It’s better than money,”” Thorn said.

    Benjamin Dyhr, a mathematics graduate student, said he agrees with that assessment, adding that any amount of aid from the university makes the prospect of supporting oneself as a graduate student more realistic.

    The lack of full tuition remission has consequences for UA programs looking for graduates, said Elizabeth Larakers, a graduate student in English.

    “”It looks bad,”” Larakers said, adding that applicants could think, “”‘How good can this program be if they’re requiring their grad students to teach this much and pay a certain amount out of pocket?'””

    Dorian Voorhees, assistant dean of the Graduate College, said she doesn’t think the UA will be able to recruit more students, but it will allow the university to maintain its quality, since most graduate school applicants see financial matters as secondary to whom they will study with.

    Winslow said he was tempted to go to other universities, but the strength of the rhetoric and composition teaching of the English program at the UA persuaded him to stay.

    Voorhees said she thinks having full tuition remission “”maintains our competitiveness”” with other universities, but she worries about some possible negative outcomes for research projects.

    The added tuition remission must come from the grants that fund research projects, making it more costly to hire student workers, Voorhees said.

    A table of rates for fringe benefits – including tuition remission – on the UA sponsored projects services Web site shows that researchers must pay benefits of 34 percent of a graduate assistant’s salary. Beginning in July, it jumps to 38.5 percent.

    Thorn and Davis both said health insurance and the amount of work asked of student employees are the two biggest problems facing the graduate community.

    Winslow said dealing with the high workload, especially in the College of Humanities, should be the biggest concern for the UA if it wants to attract better graduate students.

    “”The workload is really the killer,”” Winslow said.

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