Frequently Asked Questions about Mandatory Fees
What’s wrong with mandatory fees? I like some of the services they pay for!
- Mandatory fees and the programs they support were started by students to fill a gap that the university created. As workers and students, we deserve these services, and the university should pay for them.
- We don’t want to take money away from important orgs, and we don’t want to place the burden of paying mandatory fees solely on undergrads. We don’t want the burden shifted to departments. We want the university to cover them.
- In December 2018, our faculty senate passed a TAA-sponsored resolution of support for graduate students requesting that the administration fully cover mandatory fees without placing additional burdens on graduates or other students. Since then, the UW administration has done nothing to resolve the mandatory fee burden on grad workers.
What do you mean by “mandatory fees”?
- Mandatory fees include segregated fees and other fees assessed to certain student populations. International students are assessed an additional $100 “International Student Services” fee every semester on top of the other mandatory fees.
Why is the TAA campaigning for mandatory fee remission?
- Fee remission will be a universal positive impact for all grad workers, despite differences in departmental funding.
- The stipend disparity between graduate programs across campus means that certain grad populations are disproportionately affected. Thus, a universal pay increase will not offset the burden these fees place upon us.
- Fee remission will be a much-needed immediate form of financial relief.
- There is inconsistent and insufficient communication regarding mandatory fees; because of this, the financial impact of the fees can be unexpected, unclear, and devastating for graduate workers.
- The deduction of mandatory fees is inadequately communicated to new students accepting offers from UW-Madison, leaving them with significantly less financial support than their funding offer would suggest.
- Showing the university that our money is valuable = showing the university that our time is valuable, and we need to be respected accordingly.
- Graduate workers have experienced suffering and hardship for UW-Madison to flourish both before and during the pandemic; mandatory fees are just the lowest-hanging fruit in showing administration that we matter and our suffering is important.
Is it legal for the university to pay our mandatory fees?
Can you give me some numbers?
- Segregated fees are $1468/academic yr for domestic students
- Including summer term, segregated fees are $1,830/yr for domestic students
- International students pay an additional $200/yr
- In 2020-2021 a 33.3% appointment earns a 9 month salary of $41,000*0.3333=$13,667
- For a 33.3% domestic appointment salary, seg fees are
- 10.7% of 9 month salary
- 16.1% of first three paychecks each semester
- For a 33.3% international appointment salary, mandatory fees are
- 12.2% of a 9 month salary
- 18.3% of first three paychecks each semester
What do other university employees pay?
The four largest components of seg fees are bus passes, access to the Wisconsin union, Recreation Services, and UHS.
- Bus passes: faculty and staff pay $48 annually for a bus pass, grad students pay $143 annually towards bus passes via seg fees.
- Wisconsin Union: faculty and staff can pay $200 for a lifetime Wisconsin Union membership; graduate workers pay $558 to the Wisconsin Union annually.
- Recreation Services: faculty and staff can pay between $252 and $480 annually (depending on level of access). Grad students pay $473 annually towards rec services.
- UHS is only for students; graduate students pay for limited UHS access via seg fees in addition to their primary health insurance premiums.
Whose fees should the university cover?
- The TAA, as the graduate workers’ labor union, argues that all graduate students who labor for the university—TAs, PAs, RAs, LSAs—should have their fees covered. Nevertheless, we support all student workers at this university in their struggle to lower the cost of education.
Why is tuition remission not enough? Why wouldn’t a stipend increase work instead?
- TAs and PAs provide grossly underpaid work for the university. Tuition remission is necessary to support graduate labor on campus. But the combination of tuition remission and low wages may still be less than what many graduate workers could make working with private tutoring companies, for example.
- We believe education should be publicly subsidized at all levels. Our society benefits when all students have access to affordable education. Tuition remission for graduate labor is one example of this subsidized education.
- A basic stipend increase does NOT resolve the issue of fee burden on grad workers:
- There is a large disparity amongst grad worker stipends depending on their program and appointment status (TA vs RA vs PA vs LSA). Thus, program-dependent stipend increases will not benefit students equally.
- The university administration ultimately holds the power to increase segregated fees when they see fit, as evidenced by the continual increase of these fees without a concurrent increase in grad stipends across the university.
Is there precedent for covering fees? How do our fees compare to other schools?
- UC Berkeley, Penn State, and Michigan State all remit 95–100% of mandatory fees for graduate workers. UCLA, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Purdue all remit 70–90%. The University of Wisconsin-Madison covers 0%.
- UNC-Chapel Hill recently moved to fully cover graduate student mandatory fees this past summer. The breakdown of fee coverage is as follows: The Provost covers 50% of the cost, The Graduate School covers 25% of the cost, and the campus unit funding the stipend is responsible for 25% of the cost.
- Unremitted fees constitute just over 10% of a typical graduate employee’s annual income at UW-Madison. Graduate workers at our peer institutions pay less than 3% of their annual income back to their employers.
- UW–Madison already has mechanisms in place to cover the fees for some students. For instance, Bucky’s Tuition Promise covers four years of tuition and mandatory fees for incoming freshmen whose household adjusted gross income is $60,000 or less. Most graduate workers make less than $15,000 annually.
- Certain departments at UW-Madison, including Counseling Psychology, History, and Neuroscience pay some fees for some of their graduate workers. But none of these departments cover all fees for all graduate workers, and furthermore, fee relief should happen for all graduate workers, not just on a department-by-department basis.
Where is UW–Madison going to get the money?
- UW–Madison’s 2018-19 operating budget was $3.185 billion. In total, segregated fees make up only ~1.5% of the budget: UW–Madison pays almost twice that in debt servicing fees. Finding the funds is not a question of whether or not the university has the money; it is a question of institutional will.
- It is the university’s job to lobby the state government for more resources. The TAA has consistently worked to elect pro-education state officials and to lobby our representatives for better funding. The 2021-23 state budget is being decided on right now.
- Other universities that cover their students’ seg fees do so in a variety of ways. For example, as stated above, UNC-Chapel Hill recently started paying its grad workers’ fees through a combination of university-level, graduate school level, and departmental-level funds.
How will this affect undergrads? Why should faculty care about mandatory fees?
- Since the beginning of our campaign on mandatory fees, the TAA has been clear that the costs of covering fees for graduate workers should not be transferred to undergrads. Again, the university should determine how they will cover the costs of the services funded through mandatory fees without burdening their already-struggling student population.
- Increased compensation for graduate workers will benefit undergrads, faculty, and academic departments. Many graduate workers work additional off-campus jobs to make ends meet or face material hardship in order to pay their fees; covering the fees for graduate workers will allow us to focus more on our instruction and our research, while also improving our mental health.
My advisor/department are empathetic, what can they do to help the campaign?
- Faculty and departmental support will be invaluable to our campaign; thus, public letters of support for graduate worker fee remission is our main ask to use as leverage on the university administration.
- If faculty are hesitant about their individual public letter of support, we ask that they begin the conversation with their department head in order to garner a more collaborative letter of support.
- We ask faculty to continue the conversation with their peers as they should care about this campaign as it directly influences their graduate student’s mental health and in turn their productivity.
- Faculty should consider joining their union to continue their role in organizing efforts!
Will students lose services if the university covers these fees? Will student groups lose funding if the university covers these fees?
- No. There is enough money in the University’s budget to cover services and support for student organizations. The coverage of mandatory fees should not mean the slashing of services that those mandatory fees are allocated towards.
- Further, two of the most crucial university services provided to students are high-quality education and high-quality research. In order for grad workers to perform their jobs, they need such vital services as public transport and childcare. We shouldn’t have to pay to work here. These costs should be covered by our employer, who benefits immensely from our labor.
What happens if I don’t pay my fees? Will I get in trouble?
- As a graduate worker, there are no consequences to waiting until April 2, 2021 to pay the spring semester segregated fees (April 2 is the due date; source).
- If you do not pay your fee by or on April 2, 2021, you will be charged a $100 late fee, and will be barred from course registration and from accessing your transcript until the fees are paid. We as a union have not yet determined whether we will ask our members to not pay the segregated fees on the due date. If we do make this ask (e.g., the university has not remitted fees yet, but we have reason to believe a mass refusal to pay will be successful), we will communicate our rationale -- and the associated risks -- ahead of time.
My segregated fees are paid for me by a fellowship, grant, loans or a refund. Can I still support this campaign?
- Yes! We have received conflicting guidance from the University about how to go about this, but several members have been able to divert their funding sources away from automatic seg fee payments in the past. (As a bonus, you get extra $$$ in your pocket from the first paycheck until the seg fee due date!). To prevent external funding from auto-paying your seg fees, take these steps:
- Fill out this form and return it to the Bursar's office (email@example.com).
- Also contact the Bursar’s office directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell them you would like to pay your segregated fees closer to the April 2 deadline. They will be able to advise on how to do this based on your situation (i.e., the exact source of the outside funds).
- Note that you have to re-submit the form each semester.
- You can also sign our pledge form and note that you are signing in solidarity with the campaign!
What do UW-Madison grad workers have to say?