Graduate students fear cuts in tuition waivers

By Emily Herbick

During these hard economic times, the last thing graduate students want to hear is that the University wants to cut their tuition waivers without involving them in the process.

This concern was the main focus of the public forum held Wednesday at the University YMCA’s Latzer Room. The forum was hosted by the Graduate Employees Organization in order to discuss concerns about the University’s tuition waiver proposal.

The plan wants to eliminate tuition waivers for graduate students who work 10 or less hours per week at the University. It also wants to remove tuition waivers for students who are in professional degrees or terminal master’s programs even if they work. The plan also would require grants and fellowships funded by external donors or corporations to pay for tuition in addition to salary, and would reduce academic professionals and University employees’ tuition waivers from 100 percent to 50 percent, according to flyers that the GEO disseminated at the forum.

GEO discovered the proposal at a labor management meeting with the administration, said Kerry Pimblott, co-president of GEO. Many were not consulted about this plan.

“It’s an undemocratic process right now,” Pimblott said. “This decision is being made without graduate student involvement, so we are trying to push for democratic representation in the decision-making process. We do not appreciate the fact that they created this process without consulting us.”

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    About 100 people attended the forum to discuss their concerns about the plan and what they should do about it. Petitions were passed around during the meeting.

    “(Graduate students) are concerned that this is going to make a lot of education costs prohibitive and it’s also going to make certain graduate departments suffer and have to reduce their numbers because of this cut,” said Michael Simeone, GEO communications officer and graduate student in LAS. “We are afraid that it’s going to cause some damage to the health of graduate programs in the long term, and a lot of people are going to be concerned, unless there is some kind of written guarantee for their funding, that they’re going to lose their funding as well.”

    Susy Hemphill attended the forum because she is a graduate student in FAA with a 25 percent appointment.

    “I’m really concerned about cutting funding,” she said. “I know everyone in my department struggles making it through grad school on 25 percent and without that most of us wouldn’t be here, so it’s vital.”

    Carey Ash, graduate student in education and graduate student senator, attended the forum to better understand the issue and how it will affect students, so he can articulate these concerns to the Administration.

    “The graduate delegation and the student senate are fighting hard to protect the interest of graduate students,” he said. “We are committed to this issue, above all, because graduate students contribute a great deal to this institution. We want input and we want to have our input heard.”