LETTER: Financial issues with graduate students

While the University’s president resolves to make Illinois the best public university in the nation, the University’s negotiating team proposes a contract for graduate employees that will make top quality graduate students think twice about coming to a university that offers them so little. While the University’s administrators take pride in the school’s excellent reputation for research and teaching, they ask the graduate students who contribute to the school’s reputation to accept a contract that will reduce their real wages each year, not match rising fees and leave hundreds of graduate students paying significantly more money than they make each year.

It is time for University administrators to recognize the growing divide between their rhetoric and reality. According to the University’s own statistics, the cost of living for graduate students is almost $1000 more than the minimum stipend for graduate employees. The University’s current proposal to graduate employees offers wage increases that will not keep up with inflation, insuring that each year graduate students will have to pay even more of their own money.

The University’s lead negotiator Steve Veazie has said that graduate students have “a pretty good deal” because they get a tuition waiver and a minimum $12,500 stipend. But this “pretty good deal” is not competitive with peer institutions. Steve Veazie might think paying hundreds of dollars more than you make each semester is a pretty good deal, but top quality graduate students won’t. Quite simply, Illinois cannot maintain its status, let alone strive for something higher, if it cannot attract top quality graduate students. Veazie has suggested that the University cannot afford to pay graduate students better. In reality, the University cannot afford to make graduate students accept a regressive contract.

Sarah Frohardt-Lane

Graduate Student

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