Ahead of Higher Ed: UT at Austin graduate students draft Bill of Rights

University of Texas at Austin graduate students who are fed up with financial aid inconsistencies are making their voices heard to their administrators by drafting what they are calling a “bill of rights.”

Student leaders in UT’s Graduate Student Assembly, like Columbia Misha, who serves as president of the organization, are fighting for a baseline financial aid for graduate students who work on campus — as teaching assistants or researchers, for instance.

“The idea for the whole baseline conversation is to help students have an appropriate cost of living standard,” said Misha, who is a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, to Inside Higher Ed. “Students are expected to be poor — we get that. But we don’t want to go into debt or be so stressed out that we’re not producing excellent research, like we are supposed to.”

Funding is inconsistent because aid varies for each college, and on top of fighting for a living wage campuswide, Misha wants the university to acknowledge that there is a lack of financial benefits to grad students.

Other universities and systems, like the University of Michigan and the University of California System, have successfully created similar documents or are in the process of writing them.

UH, which announced in the fall the creation of its campus-wide graduate school, is in the process of digitizing and regulating an interdisciplinary application for prospective graduate students but does not have a “bill of rights” to speak of.

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