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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Grad priorities clear from new survey

    Graduate students want to see more need-based financial aid and greater tuition remission and health insurance benefits for teaching assistants, according to a survey released last week.

    The Graduate and Professional Student Tuition Survey, taken by 1,451 graduate students, indicated graduates students believe funding should increase for need-based financial aid for all UA students.

    “”I wasn’t too surprised at the health insurance and tuition remission numbers,”” said Paul Thorn, Graduate and Professional Student Council president. Both factors were among the top three high-priority issues.

    However, Thorns said was somewhat surprised need-based financial aid came out on top, though he agrees that it should be a priority.

    Provost George Davis said the UA wants to have the funds that come in after need-based and merit-based tuition to be used for “”unrestricted”” use, meaning it can be allocated anywhere.

    “”I’m not in favor of the tuition residuals being already distributed before they come in,”” Davis said, referring to the idea of pre-allocating tuition money.

    Graduate tuition remission is the issue most important to Michelle Jenkins, a philosophy graduate student.

    Jenkins said graduate student teaching assistants she knows at peer universities do not have to pay any tuition, unlike at the UA.

    “”There are a lot of people who look at the fact that they’re going to have to pay tuition as a deciding factor (in choosing a graduate program),”” Jenkins said.

    Davis said the university is already working on increasing tuition remission and hopes to reach 100 percent tuition remission by the fall semester of 2008.

    Health care is also a big issue, Jenkins said.

    “”If you have a $3,000 to $4,000 dental bill, you can’t get it done on a GA’s salary,”” Jenkins said.

    Julia Hudson-Richards, a history graduate student, said health insurance is also a priority for her.

    The survey showed that 77 percent of responding graduate students feel the same way.

    Hudson-Richards, who has health insurance coverage as a benefit as a graduate assistant, said her husband does not have health insurance because he does not work enough hours to be eligible for benefits at his job and the cost to add him to her plan is too great.

    He makes too much money to get on the state Medicaid program as well, Hudson-Richards said.

    The survey asked graduates whether they supported a tuition increase greater than the rate of inflation, and 85.3 percent of respondents said they do not.

    There is a reason that tuition increases outpace the Consumer Price Index, which measures the rate of retail inflation, Davis said.

    A great deal of the university’s budgeting is spent on salaries, Davis said.

    “”That’s the fundamental reason why (the rate of tuition increase) is higher than the CPI,”” Davis said.

    Using the College of Humanities as an example, Davis said about 95 percent of the college’s budget is in human resources, which is a big difference in comparison with private-sector businesses.

    Other graduate student issues included improving resources for student parents, more merit-based financial aid and upgrades to campus libraries, according to the survey.

    Still, one of the most notable responses was the issue of technology fees.

    The current CCIT technology fee of $50 is supported by 48 percent of respondents, though the proposed increase to $100 is opposed by 84.5 percent, according to the survey.

    “”Wireless is not something that’s used as much,”” Thorn said.

    The money could be used for more urgent needs, he said.

    Davis said he was very surprised to see the opposition to the new tech fee.

    “”I was expecting and projecting that grad students would see more value in it,”” he said.

    Citing frustration over some of her students who surf the Web during class, Hudson-Richards said she wished they would “”de-wireless”” some of the classrooms.

    Davis said the combination of this survey and last week’s student health insurance forum will fortify the conversations the GPSC has had with the president about tuition rates and funding priorities.

    Need-based financial aid:

    Tuition remission for graduate student employees:

    Health insurance benefits for graduate student employees:

    Merit-based financial aid:

    Subsidies for health insurance benefits for UA students:

    Increase class availability and/or decrease class sizes:

    Upgrade to the UA libraries:

    Classroom technology improvements:

    Wireless access in UA buildings, classrooms and outdoor areas:

    Improved resources for student-parents:

    78.93%

    78.48%

    77.09%

    72.34%

    66.85%

    61.49%

    46.69%

    45.22%

    44.36%

    34.4%

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