UI differs in Big Ten teaching assistant scholarship


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University of Iowa graduate student Jeremy Reed said he was "caught off guard" by the amount of tuition he was expected to pay in the College of Education even with the graduate tuition scholarship offered to him.

The first-year Ph.D. student said he is using savings he accumulated while working in Illinois to cover the cost, but knows he will soon have to look to other funding options to make up for the difference of almost $700.

"As students, every penny counts towards our education, but it's tough," Reed said.

The UI is one of two Big Ten universities to set dollar amounts for the scholarships graduate teaching assistants receive to cover their tuition. The majority of universities cover 100 percent of tuition, based on credit hours and teaching hours.

At the UI, the scholarship covers up to $3,612 of tuition for graduate assistants, also based on credit and teaching hours. While that covers around 99 percent of tuition for students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, it falls short for those in other schools, including the College of Education, where in-state tuition is $4,300.

The University of Minnesota also states its scholarships in dollar terms, but it follows any tuition increases, said Susan Cable Morrison, an human-resources manager for the graduate assistant services.

At a Nov. 1 meeting, the UI Campaign to Organize Graduate Students proposed its contract clearly state 100 percent of tuition will be paid for those in assistantship positions. Their proposal came before UI officials and the state Board of Regents.

"We would like to offer 100 percent tuition coverage because attracting students in the Big Ten is a goal," said John Keller, the dean of the Graduate College. "But without the knowledge of state appropriations, we feel it's best to just state a dollar amount."

Regent representatives and UI Graduate College officials included a $3,625 scholarship amount for the 2011-12 academic in their Nov. 15 proposal to COGS. But that increase isn't enough, said COGS President Kari Thompson.

"The problem is [the scholarship] would only cover those in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences," Thompson said. "But other colleges still need funding."

At the University of Michigan, graduate students with assistantships are covered for the complete cost of tuition. Ronald Dick, the associate director of academic human resources for Graduate Studies, said the tuition waiver came as a result of the university's graduate student union.

"This would apply to anyone who is a graduate instructor regardless of the school they're enrolled in, but as a practical matter, most are in the literature college," Dick said.

While the UI doesn't track the number of graduate assistants in each college, many of the roughly 2,500 are in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Keller said. Other colleges could move money around to cover those students, and some UI departments are doing so to make up the difference left by the scholarship, he said.

James Pilkey, a first year Ph.D. student in the education school, said he didn't consider the tuition scholarship when he chose the UI. But now he would like the school to pay 100 percent.

"As of now, I haven't had to take out any loans to help pay for school," he said. "But if something doesn't change, I'm sure I'll have to."

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