College News

TAA petition fights proposal that forces grad students to pay segregated fees at start of semester

The Teaching Assistants Association will demonstrate at Bascom Hill at 12 p.m. on Thursday, March 22 where they’ll deliver their signed petition to administration.

Image By: Claire Grummon and Claire Grummon

Graduate students are challenging a recent proposal from the UW-Madison Bursar’s Office that would force students to pay their segregated fees and tuition in full before the start of each semester.

In summer 2017, the Bursar’s Office announced it will require graduate students to pay all tuition and fees before the semester starts — a change to a previous agreement made in 2013 between the administration and Teaching Assistants Association, the union representing graduate students, that allowed payments after the third paycheck.

Francisco J. Santiago-Ávila, a PhD student at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, said there are two big problems with this change. One is that many graduate workers are unemployed during the summer months, meaning their last paycheck on June 1 has to last until October 1. This would create even more of a burden to pay on graduate students.

“Essentially, we have no idea how many grads would be able to make these [segregated fee] payments to begin with,” Santiago-Ávila said.

Santiago-Ávila said the TAA found out the news not through official communication, but through “back channels” that the TAA had to figure out themselves. In response, the TAA started a petition to oppose the policy change.

Sean Bielmeier, a PhD student with the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and Associated Students of Madison representative, expressed frustration at the lack of communication between the Bursar’s Office and the TAA.

“I’d like to see more communication from the Bursar’s Office as far as why they want to make this change,” Bielmeier said.

While the proposal would affect all graduate students, the group most affected by this proposal would be the graduate employees, said Cullen Vens, an ASM representative.

“Rescinding this policy would put an undue burden back on graduate students, generally, but graduate employees, in particular, by requiring the payment, in lump sum, of the entire [segregated fees] before the first paycheck of the semester,” Vens said.

Graduate students must pay just over $600 in segregated fees per semester, which amounts to about 10 percent of their paycheck, according to the TAA site. If they couldn’t pay upfront, the policy gives graduate students an option to enroll in a three-installment payment plan for an extra $50 more.

UW-Madison Spokesperson Meredith McGlone said in a statement the university is working with graduate students.

“UW-Madison values the many contributions graduate students make to teaching and research here,” McGlone said. “We are sensitive to the concerns that have been raise and are working on adjustments to the payment schedule.”

Santiago-Ávila hopes the TAA, Bursar’s Office and administration can work out the issues without needing to “raise hell,” but said he wants to make sure the graduate student’s voices are heard with the petition.

“If we don’t show that there’s enough opposition for this [proposal], it might get rolled out,” Santiago-Ávila said. “We’re merely asking for our input and our well-being to be taken into account appropriately.”

The TAA is planning a demonstration at Bascom Hill at 12 p.m. on Thursday, March 22 where they’ll deliver their signed petition to administration.

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