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

Opinion | Graduate workers deserve better

Graduate student workers should not have to pay student fees in addition to tuition.
Ethan McLaughlin
A speaker addresses passing students during a COGS press conference on the University of Iowa Pentacrest on Wednesday, March 27, 2024.

In the United States and at the University of Iowa, it is unacceptable that trying to further their education often leads to graduate students financial turmoil.

Recently, the UI’s graduate student union Campaign to Organize Graduate Students, or COGS, held a protest on the Pentacrest to continue their push to end graduate student fees.

In addition to their actions protesting the fees, COGS has also made public pushes for higher wages for graduate workers earlier this academic year by protesting a Board of Regents meeting.

Graduate student workers, like all students, should not have to fight tooth and nail to be able to afford education. Between inadequate wages and expensive fees, UI graduate workers
deserve better.

When students are paying tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in total tuition and work for the university in tandem, why should their pay be so low?

The COGS protest on the Pentacrest was a boycott of One Day for Iowa, an event in which the public can donate to university organizations and departments. This year, donations totaled over $1.8 million.

This is not to say that organizations that receive donated money don’t deserve adequate funding.

These organizations are undoubtedly necessary for a fulfilling experience at the university.

Still, it’s hard to believe that “budgetary constraints,” as stated by the UI in an email response to COGS, are the reason that graduate students must pay so much in fees that they consider dropping out.

UI graduate workers have the second-lowest rate of base pay out of all the Big Ten schools.

A particularly frustrating burden for graduate students that comes with this issue is how overlooked some of these issues are. While high tuition costs in the U.S. have been the center of policy debates for the last few years, many issues that fall under that umbrella receive little to no attention, such as expensive fees and poor wages.

It’s important to remember that these fees, which are hundreds of dollars, are required on top of tuition, which is almost $13,000 for in-state graduate students and almost $32,000 for out-of-state graduate students for the 2024-25 academic year.

When we think of the debate around this issue, conversations are largely centered around annual or yearly tuition costs and how that prevents people from being able to go to school.

While that is an important conversation to have, how often does anyone stop to consider something relatively smaller like fees that can still have a big impact? Do we realize how many students go to school, fork over thousands of dollars, but then have to drop out after the fact? They don’t get a refund on that.

Additionally, this issue should not be dismissed as one that only affects a minuscule percentage of graduate workers; of just north of 6,000 graduate students at the UI, over 1,000 signed a petition calling to end the fees. These students are fed up.

No matter which way we paint it, graduate students are struggling to get by, and in this day and age, in a nation with as much wealth as we have, that is an atrocity. We need to be aware of the troubles that these students and workers endure, and practice solidarity with them in any way
that we can.

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
Evan Weidl
Evan Weidl, Opinions Editor
Evan Weidl is a senior majoring in political science. He previously worked in the opinions section as a columnist.