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Unionized graduate employees at New Mexico State University gathered at Hadley Hall on the NMSU campus this morning to call for solutions to out-of-control tuition costs in upcoming union negotiations. Graduate workers delivered speeches and a research report making recommendations as to how NMSU can finance graduate tuition coverage.
“As a Teaching assistant at NMSU, I instruct about 50 undergraduate students every semester. I love my work, but at the end of the day, I pay literally all of my income back to the university in tuition, fees, and rent,” said Languages and Linguistics Graduate Teaching Assistant Anna Van Balen. “With the cost of living rising so rapidly, I’m finding it difficult to afford even my basic living expenses on what I take home from NMSU.”
Unlike graduate employees at the vast majority of peer institutions, NMSU graduate workers are forced to “pay to work,” paying over $6,000 a year in tuition and fees back to the University. After tuition and fees, the average NMSU graduate worker earns an annual stipend of just $12,123 —far below the federal poverty line of $13,590 for a single adult with no dependents. Graduate employees, faculty, and research leaders inside and outside of NMSU have long called on the university to commit to full tuition coverage and have identified tuition waivers as a key component in remaining competitive with other research universities. As detailed in the report to be delivered today, current surplus revenues could be used to offset the 1.35% of operating revenue currently funded through graduate workers payments back to their employer.
“After closely reviewing the operating budget, our research team discovered that NMSU has a projected surplus of $8.5 million in unrestricted Instruction and General fund revenue and a projected $2.5 million in unspent student aid funds,” said Astronomy Graduate Research Assistant Bryson Stemock. “Graduate workers are facing a crisis, NMSU can afford to act now to cover $2.7 million in tuition for graduate employees for the fall 2022 while we work together at the bargaining table to find long term solutions.”
The NMSU graduate workers’ union was formally certified by the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board in May. The University and the union are slated to begin negotiations in July. NMSU Graduate Workers United Local 1498 is affiliated with the UE Union, which also represents graduate employees at the University of New Mexico.