A News Release
The union for employees of the University of Arkansas has endorsed the graduate-assistant fight for a living wage of $20,000 per year.
“Our graduate students simply cannot afford to work for the wages the university is paying,” said Local 965 President Bret Schulte. “Many were working second jobs and relying on food pantries before the pandemic hit. Now, their second jobs are gone. The situation is desperate. Our grad students teach thousands of students each semester; they should be paid what they are worth to the university.
“The grad assistant current minimum wage at the Fayetteville campus is $12,500 per nine-month contract and $15,000 per 12-month contract.” Schulte is an associate professor of journalism.
Meeting online Jan. 21, the UA-Fayetteville Education Association / Local 965 unanimously approved the resolution, to be presented to the UA Faculty Senate for its consideration.
The document was drafted by 965 Vice President Mike Pierce, an associate professor of history.
Pierce’s resolution notes that the UA’s own graduate school estimates the cost of living in Fayetteville as far above the stipend level. According to the UA, the typical graduate student has monthly expenses of $1,895. The current monthly minimum pay calculates out to $1,250 for a 12-month contract and $1,389 for a nine-month contract.
“Even by the university’s own standards, our graduate students are not making enough money to live in Fayetteville,” Pierce said.
According to research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, meanwhile, a single person working in Washington County needs $22,339.20 a year to live independently, that is without food assistance or other government programs.
Pierce noted that a higher minimum wage also will attract higher quality graduate students, who in turn teach a number of undergraduate classes or assist in vital research.
Grad assistantships are defined as a half-time job of about 20 hours a week, of teaching or research, while the students are completing their degrees.