Graduate students rally for advanced residency tuition cuts

Wearing cardboard mouse ears and holding mousetraps, about 50 members of GSU yesterday said they had fallen into the advanced residency “trap.”

By Al Gaspari

Wearing cardboard mouse ears and holding mousetraps, about 50 members of Graduate Students United (GSU) yesterday said they had fallen into the advanced residency (AR) “trap,” weeks after the Provost did not recommend a cut in AR tuition.

Graduate students receive full funding in their first four years; AR tuition begins in graduate students’ fifth year, meaning many must find a job or additional sources of funding to pay their bills.

The AR trap, GSU said, causes students to take longer to complete their degrees because they have to work to pay tuition. Many wrote personal messages on the bottom of the traps, which were not activated.

“We want [a] commitment to reducing AR tuition to a level that would allow students to work on their dissertations,” said Duff Morton, a fourth-year graduate student and GSU member.

Provost Thomas Rosenbaum recommended keeping AR tuition at its current level for the next two years, which has been frozen since 2008. Given the historical five percent annual increase, Rosenbaum’s February 25 report said, many graduate students will save $1,350 over those four years. AR can be up to $5,300 per quarter in some departments.

Cathy Cohen, deputy provost for graduate education, stressed the University is addressing AR tuition positively. “If you look at most universities, they are considering an increase in tuition,” she said.

Cohen acknowledged that AR tuition can place a burden on students, but said the University can only meet so many needs with the resources it has.

As they marched from Ida Noyes behind a pied piper, the students chanted, “AR tuition is a trap. Students get a bum rap.” After leaving the provost’s office, they gathered on the steps of the administration building where the crowd rallied around a few speakers.

“The provost did not address the two main sources of student grievances that the committee recognized as valid,” said fourth-year Divinity school student Dave Mihalyfy in reference to adjusting AR tuition and restructuring teaching aid.

Mihalyfy was part of last year’s Provost’s Committee that recommended “making every attempt to reduce” AR, and was disappointed the provost did not follow the report’s recommendations.

Cohen understood the Committee’s role differently. “I was part of the Committee, and we were clear that the Provost might listen to other parts of the community as well,” she said.

The GSU wants to end AR tuition but will accept reform, where graduate students can qualify for financial aid packages similar to ones for undergraduates. AR tuition does not treat all graduate students fairly, they said. “It privileges students who are single and from wealthy backgrounds. And when our graduate programs look like that, our professors look like that,” Morton said.