Graduate Assistants (GA) work for the university in research or by teaching while also attending school full time. The current GA minimum wage rests under the poverty line, and 12 percent of that goes toward paying student fees.
On Friday, over 30 representatives from USF Graduate Assistants United (GAU), led by co-president and philosophy GA Megan Flocken, met with administrators to discuss a change for the GA contract.
Flocken said GAU is asking for a higher minimum wage — $12,000 a year with an annual increase of 3.5 percent to keep up with inflation — a guaranteed 100 percent tuition waiver and fee reimbursement so GAs “don’t have to pay to work.”
According to Flocken, GAs are required to be full-time students — 9 credit hours a semester — in order to work for the university.
By raising the minimum wage, Flocken said GAs pursuing a master’s would make approximately $2,000 more a year and doctoral candidate GAs would make $845 more. This increase would bring GAs above the Federal Poverty Line for a single income family of $11,770 according to the Department of Human Health and Services.
While the current common practice is for GAs to have tuition waived, GAU would like to see that promise upheld in writing.
“That is only under threat, as the university seems to be making moves that seem in line with defunding master’s programs altogether,” Flocken said. “We want to stop that before it begins by solidifying what has been common practice, which is 100 percent tuition waiver.”
Finally, GAU is hoping to receive fee reimbursement for fees GAs pay as students, such as Activity and Service fee, which can cost in the hundreds of dollars each semester, according to the university cashier’s website.
Flocken said the administrative team told them to turn in a written proposal to which the university would offer a counter proposal sometime after Thanksgiving break.
“What we’re really hoping for is that we could meet before Thanksgiving since most of what we’re proposing are financial measures to better the wage structure for Graduate Assistants,” Flocken said.
“We’re hoping that they can come back with a counter proposal before Thanksgiving so that it’s even possible for us to reach a decision before the holiday season, which, for most people — GAs included — is a time of particular financial burden.”