Grad Student Workers Shouldn’t Pay Fees

We the undersigned call upon the University of Minnesota to reduce graduate student fees by $200 per student each year. This  reduction will ease the difficult economic situation of graduate employees and make the university a more equitable institution. 

 Last year, 4,425 graduate student employees taught classes, conducted research, provided service, and advised undergraduate students  across the University’s many departments and campuses. Not only did graduate student employees do the professional work of the university, but many of them had completed their coursework and were no longer taking classes. To charge them student fees – which, this year, total more than $1,000 per person – constitutes an after-tax reduction of their already low salaries. Consider the approximately 1,000 graduate assistants who make less than $13,000 per year in departments from Educational Psychology to Forestry Resources. To live on so little is difficult enough, and it is even harder after giving almost 10% of their income back to the university. 

The administration will say they need the more than $4.5 million dollars they accrue annually from graduate assistants, but we know that they can reduce our fees. Cutting fees by $200 per graduate student will require reallocating about $900,000. Even at this difficult economic moment the university could achieve this in a number of simple ways. For instance: 
      • The University could streamline the salaries of high-level administrators.
         Currently more than 100 administrators each make over $200,000 annually.
         Some of them make as much as $500,000. The total annual salary for these 
         administrators is close to $32 million. Lowering the salaries of these highly
         paid administrators by about 2.8% would enable the fee reduction. This is a
         much lower percentage of these administrators’ annual income than the
         approximately 10% of take-home pay that graduate students now pay in fees. 
      • This year, the University will spend over $100 million in capital projects. Some
        are necessary, but reducing graduate student fees could be as simple as putting
        off the renovation of Northrop Auditorium (projected cost: $70 million) or making
        the renovation slightly less costly.

There are other ways the university could afford to cut graduate student fees. If it cannot revoke all of their fees, it should, at the very least, take this permanent step towards reducing the burdens on some of the University’s hardest working employees.

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