Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | JANUARY 29, 2015 5:00 AM

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Reimburse grad-student fees

I am a graduate student at the University of Iowa and a member of COGS, the graduate-student union. I am writing to express my support for COGS’s ongoing negotiations for fee reimbursements.

Graduate employees at the University of Iowa are required to pay hundreds of dollars each semester in order to work. All graduate employees should receive a 100 percent fee reimbursement. Teaching assistants, research assistants, and other appointed graduate students should not have to pay to work.

These fees contribute greatly to the financial hardship of being a student and can make attaining an advanced degree a near-impossibility for economically disadvantaged students and for those who have families or other dependents to support.

— Hodna Bentali Gharsallah Nuernberg

I would like to express my support for COGS regard 100 percent reimbursement for graduate assistants at the UI. The majority of us are parents and have our own families to support. Working and having to pay school fess at the same time only puts an unnecessary strain and makes it difficult to concentrate on studying. The stipend received does not justify the rising cost of living. Please reimburse for the unnecessary fees.

— Mary Kemi

The state Board of Regents is trying to force graduate students to continue to pay full fees. We just want to work as research and teaching assistants. The extra burden of these fees subtracts from our salaries and is particularly difficult to deal with for students such as me who have already had to deal with long-term health problems. Each of us, after all, does have at least a bachelor’s degree (I also have a master’s degree). We don’t expect to earn tremendous amounts of money, but this should be taken into account when considering money coming from a graduate student employee’s salary in order to pay what is effectively tuition, which we were led to believe would be fully reimbursed.
It is standard practice among universities today to include fee reimbursement along with tuition reimbursement since there is no practical difference between the two from the student employee’s perspective. Considering that part of the package of being admitted to a graduate program at UI in many cases is tuition reimbursement, it is a deception to hide part of this tuition as fees.

— Ryan Daly

Dining in downtown Iowa City costs an average of $7 or more while only $2 is necessary to cook at home, but the transportation for shopping groceries, cooking, and cleaning take hours a month. What does the time of grad employees at the University of Iowa mean? Not just money, the time of grad employees contributes to the academic performance of the UI, one of the Carnegie Research I Universities, which is supposed to give high priority to research. Reimbursing full fees is actually a pretty good deal to save the time and effort of grad employees so as to benefit the academic performance of the UI in the long run. Isn’t that the reason we grad students are admitted? No more hesitation to reimburse full fees.

— Farley Lai

Not long ago, graduate employees at UI started receiving 100 percent tuition reimbursement after years of being in the bottom of the Big Ten in terms of compensation. But after COGS’ hard-earned tuition victory, which helped bring many grad students out of poverty and reduced their overall debt burdens, the UI turned around and raised mandatory fees. Fees are just tuition by another name, and the promise of providing 100 percent tuition reimbursement while still charging students $1,000 a year in fees is insidious. Furthermore, for quarter-time appointed teaching and research assistants, the cost of fees is equivalent to each of them giving back over 10 percent of their annual salaries to UI as a condition of their employment. No one should have to pay to work. For these reasons and many more, the UI should reimburse graduate employees 100 percent of their mandatory fees. While 100 percent fee reimbursement would be a drop in the bucket for UI, considering it amounts to 0.26 percent of the 2015 general education fund, for the 2,300 graduate employees on campus, a 100 percent fee reimbursement would significantly alleviate the financial hardships that many graduate employees experience. It would also keep UI competitive with other Big Ten universities and R1 peer institutions in terms of graduate employee compensation. And to reduce the incentive for UI to keep raising fees to generate revenue from their grad employees, the reimbursement needs to be 100 percent, and it needs to happen now.

— Melissa Zimdars

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