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Another reason why graduate school sucks

I just shook my head when I read this.

English Department teaching fellows at the University of Houston ended their sit-in Monday after UH Chancellor Renu Khator committed $1 million a year to improve their wages – potentially enough money to bring the roughly 70 teaching fellows up to the living wage for which they’d petitioned.

In an official statement, organizers of the sit-in called the decision “an extraordinary moment.”

Graduate students and faculty had launched the excruciatingly polite sit-in outside the chancellor’s office on April 3. Currently, the teaching fellows are paid $9,600 to $11,200 a year to teach the freshman composition classes that are part of the university’s core curriculum. Faculty noted that the fellows hadn’t received a raise in 20 years and that the stipends weren’t competitive with those of peer universities.

I came to Houston in the fall of 1988 to be a PhD student in math at Rice. The stipend they gave me, which did not include any teaching requirements, was something like $1,000 per month. I don’t remember the exact figure – it’s been awhile, after all – but it was enough for me to live on. It boggles my mind that there were graduate students here that were making no more than I did when Ronald Reagan was still President. Good on Dr. Khator for helping them out and all, but wow.

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  1. Frank says:

    Well, with all due respect, their tuition and fees is probably covered by their stipend too. I had multiple offers for grad school and all but one covered tuition and fees as part of the arrangement. And that’s salary range of $9,600 to $11,200 for 9 months isn’t exactly that out of line with what departments at big state schools like UNC, UGA, and UF.

  2. My tuition and fees were covered, too. My point is simply that life is more expensive now than it was 25 years ago, and grad students should be paid in a way that reflects that.

  3. Ross says:

    Why should grad students be paid more if they are willing to accept less? My compensation is not based on cost of living, it’s based on my market value. grad students are no different.

  4. Diana says:

    You guys are ridiculous, you two would probably make a case against raising the minimum wage because compared to the rest of the world, it’s quite competitive and based on market value that’s what people deserve even if poverty is increasing.

  5. Ross says:

    Diana, I think the minimum wage is a government over reach that hurts the economy and reduces the chance for employment for some workers. And, my compensation is, to a certain extent, subject to downward pressure from countries where average incomes are less, and people with my skills are available. We live in a global economy,and making rules on wages “because they deserve it” is going to hurt us in the long run.

  6. Tyson says:

    When I went to University of Illinois for graduate school I was given a stipend of $700 a month. It was impossible to live and even though my tuition was covered, I had to take out a lot in loans to buy groceries and other life necessities.

    Ross, putting people in excessive debt for education discourages folks from pursuing higher education which hurts global competitiveness, business and industry, and ultimately, hurts our economy. People may, but sometimes don’t (especially now), make more money after getting a graduate degree but if their additional income is allocated to pay back loans, then they don’t have any real net gain.

    At the minimum, adjusting stipends for inflation is appropriate.