By Stephen Phillips, GAU
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of the Alachua County Labor Coalition newsletter. Learn more about the Labor Coalition at laborcoalition.org.
Our Fees Campaign
Fees force employees to “pay-to-work,” which is especially true of graduate assistants who are no longer taking classes but only working on their research and teaching.
Fees are also a way to get around the full tuition waiver that our contract guarantees to all GAs. The University cannot charge us tuition, so they charge us fees instead. The same argument has been made by the Florida Board of Governors, the body that oversees the operations of the State University system.
To make matters worse, there is very little transparency about HOW fees are used by UF. The University itemizes fees to an extent, but it is unclear how the collected money is actually spent. The correlation between fee increases and budget cuts would seem to indicate that fees aren’t really spent on what UF claims they are spent on, but are simply used as a revenue stream to make up for lost state funds.
GAU has fought for and won “fee relief” in recent contracts. This is money in addition to raises that helps GAs deal with the burden that fees place on their finances. While this money does not cover the full cost of fees, each year we fight for increasing relief for fees.
Additionally, since many of the fees are mandated by the state of Florida, we are fighting for legislation that decreases fees for graduate students state-wide, On both of these fronts, we need your help and involvement.
Most Recent Victory
On August 16, GAU’s Bargaining Team reached a significant agreement with the University Administration on the payment of student fees.
Beginning in the spring semester of 2020, and each semester thereafter, the University will pay approximately 31 percent of non-tuition student fees. In the spring semester, a graduate assistant (GA) enrolled in nine credit hours will see a savings of $227. A GA enrolled in six credit hours over the summer will have an additional savings of $152. This agreement does not affect the availability of any services offered by the University or others. There will also be a $100 raise for returning GAs who were employed during the spring 2019 semester. The raise is effective October 2019.
When the full amount of fee relief is effective during the 2020-21 academic year, the average GA taking eighteen credit hours will keep $455 more of their paycheck each year. Those enrolled in twenty-four credit hours will keep $606 more of their paycheck.
As a result, GAs can expect to save approximately $910 to $1,212 over the course of a two-year degree, and $2,275 to $3,030 over the course of a five-year degree.
We would like to thank all of our members and allies who helped us secure additional fee relief. This is a significant victory that will decrease the financial burden of paying non-tuition student fees for GAs.
However, our fight is not over. We believe it is wrong for GAs to be forced to pay-to-work at UF and all universities across Florida.