The amount of graduate teaching assistant positions available in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Architecture will be reduced from the 27 currently offered to 16 for the spring semester.
A group of students in the architecture school, who requested to remain anonymous, expressed concerns that the decision would negatively impact graduate students who relied on the assistantship position to help them afford tuition. According to Katherine Ankerson, dean of the college, the decision was made to adapt the college’s budget to the newly increased stipend for GTAs.
Ankerson said UNL increased the minimum compensation for all GTA positions this year from $2,600 to $5,000 per semester and the hours available for tuition remission from nine to 12, which applies to all colleges. Tim Carr, dean of graduate studies, said UNL increases the minimum stipend for GTAs every year, so UNL added $2,400 to the minimum for next semester.
According to Ankerson, while the minimum stipend for GTAs has increased, the college’s overall budget has not. The college reallocated $18,000 toward paying the GTAs, but the college still didn’t have enough money to pay 27 GTAs $5,000. So, it reduced available positions to comply with the university compensation regulations.
“The College of Architecture greatly values and supports the importance of GTA positions,” Ankerson said in an email. “However, the reality is that the College of Architecture needs to cover these increased GTA costs.”
The anonymous group of architecture students said they expressed concern to the dean about a lack of transparency with the GTA situation and circulated a petition through the college voicing discontent with the amount of information being released.
“The lack of information given to us is hindering the graduate students decision making process when it comes to enrollment and financial decisions,” the petition said. “We are asking, as a student body, to be kept informed on large decisions that will affect our academic future.”
After Ankerson received the letter, she met with concerned architecture students and said their discussion surrounding the issue was positive.
“I take all student concerns seriously,” Ankerson said.
Despite the reduction of students who will be eligible for compensation and tuition remission through the graduate assistant program, Ankerson said she is confident in the college’s ability to provide a positive learning experience for its students, saying that this alteration of GTA numbers is nothing new.
“Even with these fluctuations, we have always provided an unparalleled educational experience for our students and will continue to offer a diverse and inclusive culture of rigorous inquiry and innovation,” Ankerson said. “We are always looking to increase the financial support we award to our graduate and undergraduate students through annual scholarships and fellowships.”
Ankerson also said she recognizes GTAs value to the college, such as the support they offer first-year students, their availability of one-on-one tutoring and additional office hours. She also does not foresee any drop in the college’s graduate student enrollment, and the amount of GTA positions is still competitive with other schools of the same size.
“I’ve worked at other universities, so I know first-hand the number of GTA positions we support is comparable to our peers,” she said.