Temple University Withdraws Free Tuition for Grad Students on Strike
Temple University made good on its threat to withdraw free tuition from its graduate student assistants on strike.
Business Insider reported that students on strike must pay their spring tuition in full by March 9 or they will face a $100 late fee and a financial hold on their account, preventing them from registering for more classes, said a notice from the Temple bursar’s office. Tuition remission is worth up to $20,000 annually, depending on where the students are in their studies.
The notice was posted on Twitter by striking student, Madison Ingram, a Ph.D. candidate in the history department.
Lol “for my convenience” pic.twitter.com/bc6GjMtbDS
— Madison Ingram (@mings_ga) February 8, 2023
The move comes amid the second week of a strike by the Temple University Graduate Student Association (TUGSA), which represents about 750 members, although Temple maintains that more than 80% of graduate student teaching and research assistants are continuing to work. That would mean fewer than 150 students are on strike.
Temple maintains it’s within its legal rights to withhold tuition reimbursement for striking students.
“In accordance with Pennsylvania law, those TUGSA members who have chosen not to work are no longer entitled to their compensation and work-related benefits, which include tuition remission, when they are on strike and not performing work for the university,” the school said in a statement. “Because striking workers are not entitled to tuition remission, they have been notified of their obligation to make arrangements to pay their tuition, consistent with how the university treats other students who have unpaid tuition obligations.”
Bethany Kosmicki, a member of the negotiating committee and past TUGSA president, said that while employers legally have to dock pay in a strike, cutting off benefits is a choice.
“Temple has made the egregious and immoral choice to cut these benefits during the strike,” she said.
Kosmicki added: “We have had people who have been turned away from doctor’s appointments and who have had to pay out-of-pocket for prescriptions. We are working on solutions to get people access to health care again.”
The union went on strike for the first time in its history after more than a year of negotiations failed to produce a contract. The students teach core undergraduate courses and assist professors with research.
The two sides remain far apart, particularly on pay. The average pay for a teaching and research assistant at Temple is $19,500 a year, and the union has sought to raise it to more than $32,000, which it said is a necessary cost-of-living adjustment. The university’s offer of 3% raises over the four-year contract would get the average pay to about $22,000 by 2026.