TAs get pay raise, full tuition coverage


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Graduate-student teaching assistants have successfully lobbied for a 2 percent raise — and all of their tuition will now be covered.

Under a new two-year contract ratified Wednesday, the University of Iowa agreed to pay 100 percent of tuition for graduate teaching assistants in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. They now have 99.4 percent tuition coverage.

The new agreement is the result of months of impassioned pleas by the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students at the University of Iowa and long negotiations with UI officials.

“This is something that COGS has been working on for a long time, so it’s a really big win,” said COGS President Kari Thompson.

The contract, which will take effect July 1, is final but won’t be signed by the state Board of Regents for a few weeks.

Officials decided to base the 100 percent coverage on of liberal-arts tuition because more than 90 percent of graduate students are in the college, said John Keller, the dean of the Graduate College.

Previously, the contract used a dollar amount to cover teaching assistants up to $3,612 based on credit hours and work hours — a figure that did not account for increases in tuition.

“[Now,] if the regents want to raise tuition 20 percent, the university is committed to paying that,” Keller said.

Graduate students at the UI face a 5 percent hike in tuition for the 2011-12 year.

But Thompson said she was disappointed the 100 percent coverage will not fully fund graduate-student employees outside liberal arts.

“[The contract is] good news, but it’s also upsetting that someone like me can’t get that full coverage,” said Jennifer Ahern, a teaching assistant in the College of Education.

UI graduate-student employees also received a 2 percent raise for the 2011-12 academic year and 2.5 percent increase for the 2012-13 year. This will be the organization’s first raise since 2008.

Originally, COGS asked for a 5 percent increase in wages.

Keller said school officials considered the uncertainty of state appropriations throughout bargaining, which began Nov. 1. But ultimately, officials voted in favor of increases even though state funding remains unknown.

“Students might be disappointed in the stipend, but I would like to think they would recognize the university is taking a big risk in the agreement we’ve reached,” he said.

Daniel Rathjen, a UI teaching assistant in sociology, said the new contract is a step in the right direction.

“This contract is much more appropriate for the amount of work we do,” he said.

While COGS has reached an agreement, other Big Ten schools are still working toward improving their unions.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Teaching Assistant Association has been working under an expired contract for nearly a year, said group copresident Kevin Gibbons.

Legislators voted down all tentative agreements between the students and the university, Gibbons said, and bargaining is on hold following Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to restrict collective bargaining.

“Because of what’s being proposed about stripping rights, it’s hard to know what to do next,” Gibbons said.

Keller said he isn’t aware of any problems with collective bargaining between UI and regent officials and COGS members, and said he doesn’t expect any in the future.

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