UIUC Graduate College Reduces Tuition Waivers, Then Backs Off Under Pressure From GEO

Since 2009, GEO labor contract negotiations have protected the tuition waivers of graduate assistants. This fall, three masters programs in Statistics and Computer Science changed their designations to “self-supporting,” in violation of the contract.  As a result of this change in policy, students in these programs were not allowed to apply for assistantships in their own, or any other departments, and thus became ineligible for tuition waivers.

Under pressure from the GEO, the Graduate College has rescinded the policy change, and now states that graduate students in the three affected programs are eligible to receive assistantships and tuition waivers.  The initial modifications to the financial aid policies in these departments (Computer Science MCS, Statistics MS, and Statistics MS Masters with Analytics Concentration) were a clear violation of a contract side letter.  In response to this violation, the GEO Grievance Committee immediately contacted the university administration to protest.

Members of the GEO Grievance Committee met with representatives from Academic Human Resources (AHR), who in turn, met with the Deans of the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.  Following these meetings, representatives from AHR informed the Grievance Committee that the “self-supporting” designation had been reversed. Effective immediately, all graduate students in the three affected masters programs may hold assistantships that provide them with tuition waivers, approximately $1000 a year in health care subsidies, and a minimum wage set by the GEO contract.

Although the changes are effective immediately, final approval has to come from a committee in the administration to ensure that the new designations are permanent.

If the GEO had failed to notice this change, and AHR and the Graduate College had not reversed their decision, graduate students in the affected departments would only be eligible to hold hourly appointments, and would have been denied the safeguards on minimum standards of living wage and benefits guaranteed them by the 2009 collective bargaining agreement.