TA, AI tuition assistance benefits increase temporarily

Bobby Blanchard

Graduate students who work as teaching assistants or assistant instructors are seeing a temporary increase in their tuition assistance benefits to cover last year’s permanent increase in their tuition.

Last week, the Graduate School sent an email to all TAs and AIs, informing them that students who work for more than 20 hours a week will see their semester tuition assistance increase from $3,784 to $4,000, which is about a 5.7 percent increase. Students who work more than 10 hours, but less than 19, will see their pay increase from $1,415 to $2,000, which is about a 6 percent increase. The increase brings tuition assistance benefits closer to the cost of tuition, which differs from college to college. Tuition for full-time graduate students enrolled for 9 hours residing in Texas attending the College of Liberal Arts is $4,040.

John Dalton, assistant dean of Graduate Studies, said the increase in graduate students’ tuition assistance benefits will help this year, but as it stands these increases will not be around next fall.

“We are happy we could do it, but we wish we could do it more,” Dalton said.

The UT System Board of Regents froze undergraduate tuition at the University this year, but graduate students face a 3.6 percent increase. Michael Redding, president of the Graduate Student Assembly and Texas Student Media contract employee, said it is important to keep the tuition assistance benefits close to the cost of tuition.

“With the regents raising tuition, it became very obvious that we were not competitive in our assistance,“ Redding said. “It fundamentally boils down to ‘Are we able to recruit good graduate students and are we able to retain them?’”

“The budget picture is uncertain — we can only guarantee this supplement to increase tuition assistant benefits for the 2012-2013 academic year,” Marvin Hackert, associate dean of Graduate Studies said. “However, we are always looking for funds to help support our graduate students.”

Hackert said the gap between the tuition for full-time graduate students with teaching jobs and their tuition benefits has increased in recent years. This one-time increase temporarily shortens the gap.

Dalton said the Graduate School is also working on making the tuition assistance benefits tax-free. Since the tuition assistance benefits first started in 1997, they have still been taxable.

“We are pleased to be able to move forward and remove some of that tax liability. Our hope is to be in place with that sometime next summer,” Dalton said. “Every student’s tax situation is different.”

Correction at 9:19 a.m. on September 12: This story was updated to show that the tuition for full-time enrolled graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts is $4,040.