Grad Assistants Looking For Higher Wages

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Graduate Assistants (GA) in Florida are pushing lawmakers for higher wages.

GAs from FSU say they feel like the school is too cheap on their wages compared to other state universities.

Graduate Assistants want to make sure their schools hear them loud and clear.

The full-time students who double as part-time teachers get tuition waived and receive a stipend for their employment. A GA working 10 hours a week receives about $4400 at FSU. More than $1800 of that goes back to the university in fees.

"It's a fee to work. We can be using the money to support ourselves and our families rather than paying some people's income directly back into the university," said Kerr Ballenger, FSU GA Union President.

GA's from FSU's rival, the University of Florida, even showed up to show support.

UF grad student teachers get their health insurance covered. FSU grad assistants don't. Gator GA, Matt Vernon, said some people wouldn't have graduated without the help.

"Every fiscal year, you have to re-budget as a graduate assistant, because your stipend, your wage stays the same. The cost of living increases and then the fees go up as well," said Vernon.

Senator Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) supports the students cause. He says the legislature can't make FSU or any other university waive the fees. But if some schools are taking in extra money, lawmakers can decrease funding.

"Considering that they're getting millions of dollars in addition over the other 10 state universities, that's a discussion that needs to be had," said Sen. Bullard.

A school's board of trustees has to decide whether to waive or decrease graduate assistant fees.

The Graduate Assistant union says that FSU won't bargain with them on the fees.

To compare, the University of South Florida and University of Florida cover some or all of health insurance expenses.

And FAMU waives stipend fees entirely.

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