Despite budget cutting mandate, KU graduate teaching assistants to receive pay raise

photo by: Chris Conde

Fraser Hall is pictured on the University of Kansas Campus in September 2018.

TOPEKA — The Kansas Board of Regents approved a pay raise on Wednesday for University of Kansas graduate teaching assistants, effective immediately.

KU leaders and the union that represents the approximately 1,100 graduate teaching assistants at KU had spent the last several months in negotiations on pay and other workplace issues. The Board of Regents approved the increase at its monthly meeting after both sides said they were pleased with the agreement.

The new contract includes three raises of $750 each over the course of three years, bringing the starting salary up to $17,750 from the current $15,500.

“This agreement is an acknowledgment of the foundational role graduate students play in the research and teaching mission at KU. We appreciate the Kansas Board of Regents’ careful consideration of the agreement and are thrilled they have provided final approval for it to move forward,” said Carl Lejuez, KU’s interim provost.

The raise comes at a time when the university is working to cut $20 million from the Lawrence campus budget. Lejuez said that despite the budget cuts, it made sense for the university to move forward on the raise.

“We have a plan over the next few years to start increasing the focus of our spending on our people,” Lejuez said. “Beginning with graduate students now makes sense given the timing of the negotiation.”

Along with a pay increase, the changes would address such things as working conditions, adjustments for medical and parental leave, support for instructional materials that were previously paid for by GTAs, support for research including paid leave and coverage for professional training and conferences, said Elise Higgins, a graduate teaching assistant and a committee member of the bargaining group Graduate Teaching Assistants Coalition. The contract also includes a commitment of $60,000 in child care grants to benefit graduate students and expanded rights under the university’s employee review process.

“At a time when teachers across the country are striking and organizing against low pay, GTAC is proud to have turned huge increases in membership into long-overdue raises and additional benefits for graduate teaching assistants,” said David Cooper, GTAC president.

While the new contract still will not produce a living wage in Lawrence, Higgins said the raise represents the largest salary increases for any category of graduate workers at the University of Kansas.

Cooper said that, while the union was pleased with the latest contract, it would continue to look for opportunities to boost graduate teaching assistant pay in the future.

“We look forward to organizing and building power in the coming years to finally secure a living wage for all KU GTAs,” Cooper said via press release.


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