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Friday, June 25, 2021

UW-Madison increases wages for teaching assistants — is it enough?

UW-Madison announced pay increases Tuesday for all teaching assistants, project assistants and lecture-student assistants in the 2020-21 school year.

These new stipends will increase wages 2.5 percent for TAs, 11.7 percent for PAs and 20.8 percent for LSAs. 

While the bump in pay for LSA’s and PA’s is quite substantial, TAs have yet to see the increase they desire — nor does it reflect their value at the university.

UW-Madison employs over 2,000 TAs, each of which are “essential to the university’s education mission,” according to the university. 

Ian Kapchavi, a teaching assistant in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and member of the Teaching Assistants Association was critical of the current wages he and his colleagues are receiving.

“It’s not a lot … and there are obviously people doing it and making it work, but it’s not ideal,” Kapchavi said.  

The average stipend for a TA is currently $26,000 on the higher end, however it can sink as low as $22,000. 

“This is a pretty low wage for any kind of work, especially here in Madison, given the cost of living,” Kapchavi said. 

The university believes the added benefit of “career development skills” among other things make up for the low stipend that TAs, PAs and LSAs received. 

“In addition to a stipend and eligibility for benefits, graduate assistants also gain valuable career development skills by participating actively in teaching, research, and other projects on campus,” Graduate School Dean William J. Karpus said. “These experiences help graduate students grow as scholars and leaders in their field and make them competitive for desired career outcomes.”

Another financial opponent of UW-Madison students and graduate students alike are the segregated fees — which cover student services, activities, programs and facilities on campus — required in addition to tuition. These are fees that cover student services, activities, programs and facilities on campus.

Kapchavi does not believe the increase in TA wages is keeping up with increases in segregated fees, which expands their financial burden.

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“The university is going to be the university and hold onto as much [money] as they can,” Kapchavi said. 

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