The Teaching Assistant Association (TAA) is working to end mandatory segregated fees for graduate and international workers by calling all graduate assistants to withhold Spring 2021 semester fees until the due date.
Segregated fees are payments on top of the regular tuition fees that are charged to all full time UW students for a range of services the university provides. For example, every full time student pays an additional $224.40 per semester for University Health Services, $243 for the Wisconsin Union and $57.76 for every student to have a Metro Bus Pass. In total, segregated fees are sent to 11 different recipients for services that benefit students.
The TAA, however, the oldest graduate employee union in the world, believes that as graduate students they deserve these services without having to pay additional fees due to their employment standing.
“We don’t want to take money away from important orgs, and we don’t want to place the burden of paying mandatory fees solely on undergrads,” the TAA said in an email. “We don’t want the burden shifted to departments. We want the university to cover them.”
The TAA argues that all graduate students who labor for the university should have their fees covered. Right now, graduate workers at UW-Madison pay 10 percent of their salary — almost $1500 — per academic year in segregated fees according to the TAA.
A move to end segregated fees for graduate students wouldn’t be unprecedented. Other public universities have ended mandatory fees for graduate students; for example, UC Berkeley, Penn State and Michigan State all remit 95 to 100 percent of mandatory fees for graduate workers. UCLA, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Purdue and Indiana University-Bloomington all remit 70 to 90 percent as well.
“It’s negatively impacting the livelihoods and health of their graduate students by introducing new hardships, forcing unique financial decisions and adding undue stress to grad workers who are already spreading too thin,” the TAA said.
TAA officials are urging all graduate assistants to sign a pledge to withhold their Spring 2021 semester fees until their due date on April 2 to gain leverage and support for the campaign.
The TAA is also working with graduate student representatives on ASM’s Student Council to get legislation passed in support of fee remission for graduate workers. As of Feb. 10, the TAA has 648 signatures on their pledge to hold fees.