Ohio University graduate students are pushing for the university to almost double the amount of money they receive in stipends for their work.
The Ohio University Graduate Employee Organization issued a report last month comparing OU's graduate student compensation, health insurance costs and other expenses with those of other universities throughout the country.
“In the past, Ohio University’s low assistantship stipends have been defended by the university with the claim that our tuition waivers are a part of our compensation,” the report stated. “However, our peer institutions provide tuition waivers while also offering much higher stipends than Ohio University.”
Universities used for comparison in the report
- University of South Carolina•
- Oklahoma State University•
- West Virginia University•
- Colorado State University•
- University of Missouri•
- Oregon State University•
- University of New Hampshire•
- University of Rhode Island•
- Iowa State University•
- University of Utah•
The minimum stipend for a graduate assistant at OU who works 15 to 20 hours a week is $7,200 per year, according to the report. The Graduate Employee Organization would like OU to increase that stipend to about $14,390 to match the average of the other universities mentioned in the report.
In addition to information about graduate student workers' payments, the report also compares OU’s health insurance for graduate students with that of 10 different institutions of similar ranking and enrollment, showing that OU is behind all of them in subsidizing health care for graduate students.
“Ohio University currently subsidizes health insurance for students with graduate appointments by $40 per semester,” the report reads. “With the cost of the student health insurance plan in 2017-2018, this amounts to about 2% of the total cost.”
The cost of health insurance for graduate students is $1,976 for the 2017-18 academic year.
The University of South Carolina had the next lowest subsidy for graduate students of the institutions in the report, subsidizing 25 percent of health insurance. Seven institutions fully subsidized health insurance for graduate students.
The Graduate Employee Organization protested outside of Baker Center on Sept. 28 to voice their thoughts about the findings in the report.
The graduate students made four demands, including increasing health insurance benefits for graduate student employees, reducing the graduate student fee, providing graduate students parental leave and hiring a legal consultant for international students.
At a Graduate Student Senate meeting on Sept. 26, Vice President for Student Affairs Jason Pina told Graduate Employee Organization’s co-president, Elliot Long, that when he received the report, he printed out copies for the directors he works with to discuss it.
“I’ve worked at some of the schools that were studied in that report,” Pina said. “I know the reality is true. I know what I paid my TA’s. I’ve done student health insurance for my entire stay at Massachusetts.”
After Pina’s presentation, members of the organization spoke out about the treatment of OU graduate students.
Jason Crane, a doctoral student in communications, said he was “very, very pleased” when he received his acceptance letter to OU. He received a full-ride scholarship, but “in the fine print,” his letter said he would pay a $550 health fee per semester.
“Curious as to what fully funded truly meant, I did some extra exploration research and contacted some people,” Crane said. “I found out shortly thereafter that the health fee was not approximately $550, but it was double that.”
After reviewing the report, OU Spokesman Dan Pittman said the administration is committed to “having ongoing conversations” with graduate students and Graduate Student Senate.
“We are taking advantage of many different outlets to have these conversations so that we can ensure that all graduate students have a meaningful experience at OHIO,” Pittman said in an email.