Important bargaining update: 05/04
We wish we could tell you that because of your hard efforts at the march last Friday, MSU has ‘seen’ the light. In fact, we thought we would be able to tell you this. But while we have some good news about salary, almost everything else we have to share is not so exciting. Please COME TO A GRADE IN this TUESDAY in the building where we have our negotiations, NESBIT HALL. Its a bit of a hike, so if you need a ride, contact us (geu at msu dot edu)!
We approached bargaining on Friday with the hope that this would be a productive conversation. Thursday’s bargaining session showed positive movement from the university on the issue of raises- especially the raises for those at the very bottom of the pay scale. The ten percent increases for the very minimums would be a big step towards protecting our most vulnerable TAs, raising the minimum salary for a half-time, academic year TA almost to $14,200. The 1.5 percent annual raises for everyone are considerably better than the earlier .3% proposed raises. For reference, here is where MSU TA salaries currently stand with respect to peer institutions. Many of these institutions already have 3+% salary raises for the next couple years. So we will need to do better than the current proposal to keep pace once we raise the minimums.
With a little time to look over the full proposal, we did note that many members would still be worse off because of the reduced tuition waiver for students after comps and the removal MSU’s contribution to dependent healthcare premium costs. And so we came to bargaining on Friday intending to discuss those two problems.
MSU’s plan to reduce the tuition to three credits after comps would create a net loss for many doctoral candidates. Currently, post comps students take an average of about 4.2 credits per semester. Paying for extra two or three credits per year would cost from $1,292 to $1,938 a year. While many students might be able to stay below the limit of three credits, there are some programs where this would be nearly impossible. Many departments take comprehensive exams early in their program leaving those students struggling to catch up with 999s. That, in turn, might cause students to delay taking comps, which would increase average time to completion and cost students and the university more money. Any special issue courses that come up later or other class needs might be impossible. OER claims that the people they have spoken to so far say the problems would be minor. It also seems that they have spoken to very few people in the College of Education, College of Social Science, and College of Music. Overall, OER’s proposal to weaken our tuition waiver would push us closer to the bottom of the pile with respect to our Big Ten public institution peers than we already are.
|School||Credits Covered by Tuition Waiver|
|Michigan State||9 (MSU proposal: Only 3 after comps)|
Any student who needs six credits per semester would see increased out of pocket tuition costs of $3,876 a year at current tuition rates.Note that their proposal drops us to THE VERY BOTTOM OVERALL in the Big10. …go green.
After a brief caucus we returned to discuss MSU’s contribution to dependent health care costs. MSU claims that because of changes to health insurance regulations, costs for enrolling a spouse will be reduced substantially making the subsidies for premiums unnecessary. While the costs would be reduced for the first year, using MSU’s predictions for premium increases on our health plan we can see that they will be considerably higher than they are now by the end of the contract. And while costs to enroll a spouse will drop temporarily, costs to enroll children will increase immediately. The proposed changes will hurt families. The new cost to enroll two children will be $5,832, an increase of $2,730.
We pointed out which groups would be hurt and that even the reduced costs for spouses are unmanageable on a small salary. Many Teaching Assistants already rely on the food bank or student loans to help get by after paying health premiums for their children.
After a day of conversations about proposals reducing our tuition and health benefits, OER said that we seemed to be asking for everything we already had only better. They suggested we make hard decisions about things like whether or not we buy generic brands and whether or not we add ground beef to our spaghetti sauce. They suggested we make hard decisions, adult decisions, about whether we choose to have children, and whether or not we choose to come to MSU if we already have families.
It is unacceptable for MSU to make graduate education unfeasible for parents. This is not an issue of buying generic brand food, this is an issue of accessible higher education and health insurance for children. Should you, as a woman, have to defer your choice to have a child until you have received your terminal degree? Should you be forced to choose between an education and a high risk (by virtue of mother’s age) pregnancy? Should you be forced to choose between the family that you have and continuing your education? MSU seems to believe we should. We are a cheap demographic to insure. Because of the nature of international student visas and a number of other legal constraints, MSU must provide healthcare. And we believe that they shouldn’t limit the diversity of people who can receive a graduate degree here by offering limited, non-comprehensive healthcare to us and our families, asking us to assume rising healthcare costs, and protecting their bottom line.
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