| 03.18.2018

The graduate student struggle – UI”s teaching assistants are paid too little for a large amount of work


Teaching assistants have more on their plates than most.

While many people around campus fit into a single category, such as student, staff, faculty or administration, graduate students who also work as teaching assistants transcend the singular label and function as a student, instructor and, on some occasions, a researcher.

Despite the extensive work graduate TAs do, the unfortunate reality is that the University of Idaho pays its graduate teaching assistants far less than other institutions.

Although there is some help provided for UI”s TAs, the financial support is not enough.

University policy states that out-of-state graduate teaching assistants will have their tuition waived, and while there is a budget for in-state tuition waivers, the budget is shared between UI”s departments. This means the money is so spread out, it doesn”t amount to much for each individual teaching assistant.

These are individuals who already have multiple stressors weighing them down. TAs teach courses, grade papers and conduct extensive amounts of research, but they also juggle a required number of credits to complete their own education.

The many pressures of being both a teacher and a student combined with low pay that makes it hard for these graduate students to scrape by leaves TAs run-down, over-worked and overall, exhausted.

This is not only detrimental to individual graduate students, but it also negatively impacts the undergraduate students who are taking courses taught by teaching assis-tants.

TAs who are tired and run-down or worried about how they”re going to make rent for the next couple of months won”t be able to focus on the students they are instruct-ing or the material they are required to teach.

This could potentially decrease the quality of courses taught by graduate students, which, in turn, negatively affects the education that the undergraduate students of UI receive.

In addition to making an impact on students, low pay for TAs also affects UI”s enrollment numbers as a whole.

While the university is taking many steps to increase and retain the enrollment numbers for undergraduate students, a lack of aid and low pay for teaching assistants contributes to the dwindling numbers of UI”s graduate students.

Graduate school alone is expensive, but many students also enter graduate school with debt they accumulated while attaining their undergraduate degree.

When it comes to choosing which school to pick for graduate studies, financial aid is often a key factor.

Even though UI offers a variety of great graduate programs, many students are instead opting to pursue their graduate studies at institutions where they can receive in-creased financial support.

Low pay for teaching assistants isn”t a problem that only impacts individual employees, it is something that affects the entire university. While it might not seem like a relevant issue to undergraduate students or faculty members who don”t work with TAs, the problems caused by paying a select group of employees too little money for jobs they perform affects both the student body and the work environment for faculty. It”s something that needs to be discussed.

– CB

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