FSU Graduate Assistants Negotiate For More Benefits After Healthcare Cuts

Aug 17, 2017

Florida State University graduate assistants are negotiating for more generous benefits. The effort comes after the administration cut healthcare coverage for the children and spouses of grad assistants. 

Credit Hamza Butt via flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/149902454@N08/35417680152/

University graduate assistants are both students and teachers and that makes compensating them complicated. Adela Ghadimi heads the graduate assistants union at Florida State University and says her colleagues should be compensated as employees.

“We teach 30% percent of all the academic credits the university is offering. We work on the research grants and research projects that the faculty work with, in the labs and things like that that are all happening," Ghadimi said. "None of this would be possible without the graduate assistants on campus.”

She says graduate assistants at FSU earn less overall and have higher out of pocket healthcare costs than those at the University of Florida.

“It’s gonna be hard for the university long-term to attract competitive, passionate, qualified graduate assistants to the university. Because if they’re looking at the benefits packages that they would receive here versus another university, top candidates are gonna be more inclined to go where they’re going to be more adequately compensated,” Ghadimi said.

According to a 2014 report by the New America Education Policy Program typical debt for graduate students can range from $42,000 for Masters of Business Administration students, to $50,000 for Masters of Science, to upwards of $140,000 for medical and law students.

Adela Ghabimi says compensation and benefits can make a difference for graduate students, and that cutting back on that support will negatively impact the university.

"That's an issue as well for the quality long-term of teaching and research that the university is able to do if they're not able to recruit, attract and retain top quality graduate students at the university."

Negotiations for higher pay and broader healthcare coverage will continue Friday afternoon.