The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI graduate student union continues demand to end student fees

The union gathered on the Pentacrest to call on the university to reduce fees for graduate students.
Ethan McLaughlin
A speaker addresses passing students during a COGS press conference on the University of Iowa Pentacrest on Wednesday, March 27, 2024.

The University of Iowa graduate student union Campaign to Organize Graduate Students, or COGS, continued its call for an end to student fees on Wednesday — one of the largest fundraising days on campus. 

Nearly 50 COGS members and students gathered on the Pentacrest Wednesday for a press conference in response to the university’s response that declined the union’s request to end student fees. More than 70 people gathered on March 5 when COGS delivered a petition to the president’s office, giving the university two weeks to respond as a part of its Campaign to End Fees.

The conference was held during the university’s annual One Day for Iowa event, which COGS boycotted. One Day for Iowa is a university-wide fundraiser that encourages donations to organizations and departments across campus such as Army ROTC, sports and recreation management, the Hawkeye Marching Band, and more. 

The UI responded to COGS’ request to end student fees via email on March 20, stating that mandatory student fees “are assessed based on an enrollee’s student status regardless of their employment status,” and that due to “budgetary constraints,” the university would be unable to fulfill the union’s request.

COGS is working to end all student fees for graduate workers that are due at the beginning of the semester, often before workers receive their first paycheck. According to the current bargaining agreement between the Iowa Board of Regents and COGS, the minimum salary rate for unionized graduate employees is a little over $21,300 for an appointment of two semesters for 50 percent of work, which is an academic year.

The email was posted in snippets on COGS’ X, formerly known as Twitter, account.

RELATED: Graduate student union delivers petition to UI president calling for end to student fees

Graduate workers with appointments of 25 percent receive a scholarship covering 50 percent of mandatory student fees and most or all of their graduate school tuition, the UI wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan.

“These fees support a wide variety of services available to all students, including, but not limited to, library access, athletic facilities, and student health services,” the UI wrote in their response.

COGS President Hannah Zadeh said over 1,000 graduate workers have signed the “End the Fees” petition since its launch last semester. There are 6,079 total UI graduate students, according to fall 2023 enrollment

Zadeh said many graduate students on campus feel disrespected by the university’s response.

“The reason why we are calling for a boycott of donations is because graduate students are not seeing the benefit of that money,” Zadeh said.

Zadeh said graduate workers have had to drop out of graduate school because they were unable to take the financial burden.

“They came here because they wanted to study something they were really passionate about but they weren’t able to scrape by,” Zadeh said.

Emma Croushore, a UI graduate student, said many graduate workers have had to put fees on credit cards and donate plasma to afford the costs.

“I think it is ridiculous that students have to get really creative to scrape together money for fees,” Croushore said.

Croushore said she hopes people at the One Day for Iowa event are made aware of the true situation graduate student workers are facing.

At the time of publication, One Day for Iowa has raised over $1.8 million in donations.

“We form the backbone of the university and the work that goes on here,” Croushore said.

Mingcen Wei, a UI graduate student, said as an international student, he must pay all the fees domestic students pay, plus additional fees.

When Wei first arrived in the U.S. he paid $325 in additional fees, he said.

“As international students, we have to adjust to a new culture, and we have others back home depending on us,” Wei said.

Wei said the money he pays in fees could be going toward groceries, clothes, and better-quality meals.

“I only eat two meals a day to save money because our wages are so low,” Wei said.

Additionally, Wei has to park his car a mile off the university’s campus to save money on parking fees.

“It would be a lot more convenient for me if I could park on campus,” Wei said.

Editor’s note: The Daily Iowan receives support through student services fees, similar to the CAMBUS Transit System. The DI also fundraises on One Day for Iowa. 

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About the Contributor
Shreya Reddy
Shreya Reddy, News Reporter
Shreya Reddy is a freshman at the University of Iowa. Coming from a small town in Kansas, Shreya is double majoring in English and Political Science on the Pre-Law track. Before coming to the Daily Iowan, she has written for her neighborhood magazine and her schools literary magazine as well as writing an investigative journalism piece.