A Statement of Concern from the Graduate Professional Association

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July 1991; page 5; Volume 2, No. 7
Polemicist

The Graduate Professional Assocation (GPA), an off-campus professional organization representing the interests of graduate employees, regards recent proposals for tuition hikes with grave concern. GPA firmly believes undergraduate and graduate students alike must unite in opposing these plans, in any form. In keeping with GPA's focus on the employment-related concerns of graduate assistants, we believe tuition hikes will adversely effect our working conditions.

Because graduate employees must pay tuition in order to pursue their academic degrees, a tuition hike is, in essence, a garnishment of wages. The comparisons of tuition between UT and other universities often fail to mention that other universities completely waive tuition and fees for their graduate assistants. The University and the Legislature, on the other hand, are about to ask 10,000 of its employees to accept an effective wage cut.

University officials have criticized Comptroller John Sharp's tuition hike as a tax hike, calling it unfair. But as recently as Spring 1990, various deans had also tried to frame the raising of graduate student tuition as a tax, albeit in more apologetic fashion. Regardless of the sugar-coating, raising tuition is not equivalent to raising taxes. Taxes are spread evenly and proportionately across the population - students pay sales tax, property tax, and federal income tax like everyone else. Tuition, on the other hand, adds an additional financial burden to a segment of the university community that, compared to faculty and administrators, can least afford such burden.

The proposed tuition hikes also fail to address the University's abysmal record on minority recruitment and retention. Even the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, in its tuition hike proposal, admits minority enrollment in public colleges is severely lacking. Meanwhile, neither the Coordinating Board nor the Legislature have conducted studies to assess the financial impact tuition hikes would have upon people of color, the poor and the working class. Yet both these bodies put forth proposals that could potentially have an adverse effect upon these underrepresented communities.

Tuition hikes will also dilute the cultural diversity of graduate employees themselves, as well as the classes they teach at Texas Universities. The Office of Student Financial Aid has already predicted poorer students will register for fewer hours, or drop out altogether. Ann Richards has characterized the average student as a wealthy fraternity member who drives a BMW. A tuition hike will make the characterization a self-fulfilling prophecy.

On June 25, the Daily Texan printed an editorial by Geoff Henley in support of tuition hikes. Henley reasoned that "cutting spending and raising tuition remain the best bets." GPA has heard this reasoning before. Three years ago, when the Coordinating Board declared the health benefits we received illegal, student leaders and administrators told us the loss of premium sharing was inevitable, and that we should compromise in accepting a vastly inferior health plan. The graduate employees who eventually formed GPA instead stood their ground, accepting nothing less than the full restoration of their benefits. Three years later, we not only have our benefits back, but have them guaranteed through Texas state law.

GPA believes that accessible education and health care should be sources of pride, not shame, for Texas. Protecting these basic needs will come only as a result of a strong and unequivocal student position. GPA agrees that tuition in the state of Texas is a bargain, for those who can afford it. There are still many, however, who can't. But the real bargain is not tuition at Texas universities, but the jobs, projects and prestige that students bring to the University and the state as a result of their hard work.

If you are opposed to tuition increases, then put your integrity first. Call the SA office, Texas Student Lobby, the Council of Graduate Students, your legislator, the Coordinating Board. Write letters to the Texan, the Austin American, and state officials. Let them know your opposition to any increase. University administrators and state power brokers have abandoned their committment to accessible higher education in Texas. Now, it's up to the students: keep a college degree within reach of every Texas citizen.

To join the Graduate Professional Association, write to us at [defunct address redacted].

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