Rep. Betty Jo Charlton knows how tough life can be as a Kansas University graduate teaching assistant struggling to attend classes, pay the bills and work part time.
"I'm a former GTA myself," said Charlton, D-Lawrence, who was elated that Gov. Joan Finney recommended today that the Legislature approve a 100 percent GTA fee waiver. Currently, graduate teaching assistants at state universities receive a fee waiver of 75 percent.
"I've been working on this for years," said Charlton, who has a KU master's degree. "We must keep working. Just because she recommends it doesn't mean it goes into effect."
Stanley Koplik, executive director of the Board of Regents, which governs state universities, appreciated Finney's support for the waiver and an increase in student salaries.
"It will be money well spent," he said. "On the GTA side, moving to 100 percent allows us to be competitive with major universities. On the salary side, we simply want to pay a fair wage."
Finney's budget, presented today to the Legislature, would raise the amount spent on student salaries by about 15 percent to match scheduled increases in the federal minimum wage.
Oscar Quiros, a KU doctoral student in film and executive coordinator for the graduate student council, was relieved to hear of the governor's GTA fee waiver plan.
"Now that it has been recommended we just hope it will be approved on the floor," he said. "This will be a sign of major support for the graduate teaching assistant at KU."
He added: "The only other way to maintain quality will be to hire faculty, and that would be extremely expensive. Paying the fee waiver is a way to retain quality teachers."
Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence, said it costs a minimum of $22,000 a year less to employ a GTA to teach an introductory course than to hire an entry-level faculty member.
"A GTA can do a very, very good job of helping make a university run," he said. "It's so inexpensive and yet such an effective tool for recruitment" of graduate students.