by Alissa Ewer
On January 25, graduate students received good news from Graduate School Dean William J. Karpus. The university had approved a 3.5 percent increase in the TA-standard and PA stipends. “While we have more work to do in this area, the increase demonstrates a commitment by senior university administration to support graduate students in the institutional teaching and research missions,” stated Karpus.
About 1,600 graduate students who hold teaching assistant-standard appointments and 600 with project assistantships will benefit from the raise. Academic departments will see a permanent supplement to budget allocations to cover the cost of the increase. The change goes into effect July 1 for annual appointments and August 21 for academic appointments.
This is part of an upward trend in graduate assistant stipends at UW–Madison, resulting in about a 14 percent rate increase over five years. In 2013-14, TAs and PAs received a 4.67 percent bump and 2 percent each of the following three years.
These improvements recognize the important work that graduate assistants do and reflect administration’s responsiveness to student concerns about stipend levels. Laurent Heller, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, was instrumental in making the latest increase possible.
“We stretched hard to provide additional funding for these larger rate increases,” states Heller. “Teaching and project assistants are valued and hard-working members of the UW–Madison community who play a vital role in helping us achieve our educational mission. Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf and I are committed to improving pay for graduate student employees to help ensure we can continue to attract and retain the best and brightest students.”
Graduate assistantships are also learning opportunities for students. TAs and PAs gain work experience and professional skills like communication, leadership, and time management that make them strong candidates for a variety of career paths. Graduate assistants with at least a 33 percent appointment receive tuition remission and are eligible for health insurance.
In addition to the rate increase, policy changes currently underway make it simpler for prospective graduate students to compare funding offers from different universities, and will streamline a department’s ability to pay above the minimum rate if needed for recruitment. “The goal is to get to a point where offering stipend rates comparable to peer institutions will make UW–Madison departments better able to attract top graduate students,” according to Karpus.
The new minimum rates for 50 percent graduate assistantship appointments will be:
Standard / academic: $16,196
Senior / academic: $18,067
Hourly rate: $17.36