Teaching assistants received a blessing Feb. 5 in the form of an email detailing the new system in which University of Idaho TAs will be paid.
The email, sent out by UI associate professor Erin James, detailed the increase in TA funding. Starting in in the fall of 2018, all UI TAs will receive a $14,000 annual stipend and a full tuition waiver.
Annual stipends will increase by $500 from their previous amount of $13,500 in the 2018 spring semester. In previous years, TAs with Idaho residency were expected to pay full tuition for graduate school, amounting in $8,864 per academic year. The only tuition waivers UI previously offered applied to out-of-state students, who’s out-of-state tuition had been waived to match the in-state total.
“The decision largely was inspired by a push to increase the scholarly and creative output and environment in the university, to become a center of research excellence,” James said.
James, who works in UI’s English department, said the push for larger funding packages came from many department heads, and the benefits are expected to be seen university-wide. With more funds available for prospective graduate students, UI can more aggressively recruit, James said.
“It absolutely means that they’re more financially stable and that we also stand to recruit much more competitively with the programs that we’re competing with, because we will be on par with what other programs are offering,” she said.
John MacPhereson, a single father and UI graduate student, is just one of the TAs that will receive a dramatically smaller bill come fall. MacPhereson has taught both English 101 and 102, and said not paying tuition will significantly help his finances — and his family — in the long run.
“That’s just a lot of extra money that I’ll have on my hands that I won’t have to take out loans for,” he said.
MacPhereson said he spent his first four years of his undergraduate degree working more than 100 hours a week for C&R, a local supported living facility for the elderly and mentally disabled. Once he began his graduate program, however, MacPhereson said putting in that many hours wasn’t feasible.
“It’s hard to keep up with 100 hours a week, it’s hard to keep up with 40 hours a week,” he said. “Honestly, I’m being paid better for the hours that I’m working here. With this increase, it’s all the better.
MacPhereson stressed the long-time need for better funding packages. He said many TAs are often the first instructors for new UI students.
James agreed, adding more money circulating through the English department directly correlates with a TAs dedication to the program.
Since the deadline to apply for graduate school was Feb. 1, James said many future UI TAs might not even know that tuition will be covered once they arrive in Moscow.
“They will get a very nice surprise,” James said. “I’m so excited to write them and give them this new funding. It’s going to be a game-changer.”
MacPhereson, who had James as an advisor before he decided to attend graduate school, said he strongly believes the UI teaching staff has its students’ best interests at heart, with the recent tuition waiver as the latest example.
“The teachers are great and they fight for us,” he said. “Honestly, as much as we do, we couldn’t do it without them. This is the proof right here. They went out of their way for us to get this for us. I wouldn’t be here without the teachers that I have had.”
Brandon Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org