Statement on Advanced Residence

Graduate Students United – Statement on Advanced Residence – (Sept. 14, 2009)

More than two years ago, after a series of protests led by Graduate Students United, the University of Chicago administration began deliberating over possible reform of the university’s system of advanced residence (AR), whereby tuition is charged to graduate students after their 4th year of doctoral studies. In the meantime, as the reform process drags on, we continue to pay inordinate tuition costs. Although this reform process has been undemocratic from the start, with administrators consulting graduate students but never granting us decision-making or bargaining power, we have taken part in good faith. In spite of this, the administration’s discussions have remained almost entirely secret, and unless we speak forcefully we can only assume that our concerns will fall on deaf ears. For this reason Graduate Students United (GSU) releases the following formal statement regarding the process and potential outcome of these efforts at AR reform. The administration may choose to ignore our words, but it should be forewarned—these words will be backed up by action.

Already in the spring of 2007 Provost Rosenbaum convened a “Working Group on Graduate Student Life in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Divinity,” whose very modest recommendations included lowering AR tuition and eliminating tuition for the first year of AR (see Appendix A). These recommendations have still not been implemented. Following that committee’s report, the provost convened a Committee on Advanced Residence and Time to Degree, which produced a set of recommendations in May 2009. Today, nearly 4 months later, following repeated calls on our part for its release, the committee’s report has been finally made public. While GSU has developed its position on AR independently of the Provost’s committee, graduate students can now read the committee’s report and compare its proposals to our own. They will see that the committee’s report makes some positive but moderate recommendations, along with other recommendations that should be sharply criticized. The report’s positive recommendations, we hope, will finally convince the administration to take positive steps toward reform. But the weakness, vagueness, and misplaced emphasis of these recommendations, coupled with the administration’s continued slowness in acting, bring into relief the need for the following statement from GSU.

We will not dwell on the committee’s report, to which we respond here. Our statement simply restates graduate students’ long-standing grievances; it calls for immediate action commensurate with the urgency of the situation; and it outlines specific proposals for minimal reforms, pending what will be the only viable long-term solution: a complete abolition of AR tuition.

As graduate students, our work constitutes a fundamental part of this institution’s intellectual life. We are fully engaged members of the local, national, and international academic community; we participate in workshops, lectures, and other activities on campus; and, if we can afford it, we travel to engage in debate with members of other scholarly environments: our presence and participation is an essential driving force of intellectual activity at the University of Chicago. Yet instead of receiving just compensation, we are charged for the time we spend here.

In the words of the Provost’s own Working Group, “AR tuition makes a very small contribution to the university’s budget, but is a significant burden on students’ individual budgets.”

[1] And for some students, the current rate of $784 per quarter (which has been rising faster than inflation[2]) is even more than a significant burden—it presents a severe, potentially insurmountable hardship. AR tuition helps perpetuate longstanding inequality among graduate students, adversely affecting all students but disproportionately affecting those with the least savings or outside income, irrespective of their academic abilities. AR tuition exposes the lie that the University of Chicago operates as a meritocracy.

This situation is made worse by the fact that AR tuition begins to be assessed at the exact point when students in Social Sciences, the Humanities, and the Divinity School are least able to pay it. For those of us who have had stipends, the stipends end just before AR or just after the first year of AR, leaving us to scramble for funding sources, even as jobs are growing scarce both on and off campus, and as credit markets grow exceptionally tight. Moreover, just as we exert more time and effort working and looking for work, we are typically just beginning the arduous task of independent research. There is widespread consensus among graduate students that the financial demands of AR tuition limit our access not only to the necessities of life but also to the life of the mind.

It should be stated flatly that we have seen no evidence whatsoever in support of a claim frequently made by administrators, that AR tuition might pressure us to finish our dissertations more quickly. Everything we have observed in our own experience, and every case that has been made known to us (see Appendix B), leads to the opposite conclusion: AR tuition significantly slows our dissertation work. A simple calculation can indicate just one of many factors to this effect: At a typical graduate student wage of $12/hour, minus taxes, a student would have to work over 65 hours each quarter just to pay tuition. If a student is able to find the right campus teaching job in exchange for tuition remission, this could mean 150-300 hours of non-dissertation work per quarter necessitated by AR tuition. Add to this the need to pay for room, board, health care, other fees, and obligatory research expenses, and the fact that wages are often lower than $12/hour, and a graduate student may have little time left at all to progress in her or his studies. A student might even take time off of school solely to work in order to pay for past and future school expense—and yet AR tuition would continue to be assessed, since the system does not allow for personal leave but rather encourages us to drop out of our programs entirely, as this is the only sure means to avoid continued tuition payment even in times when we make no use of university resources.

Nonetheless, even if it were true that AR policy encourages us to finish our degrees quickly, it would still be unacceptable to begin assessing AR tuition in our 5th year of studies. Across the country, graduate students in the social sciences and the humanities typically take about 8 years to finish their programs, and in some fields the number is still higher.[3] What logic could justify pushing graduate students out of their program at such an early time in their candidacy? If the administration is serious about shortening graduate students’ time to degree, it might begin by working with faculty to improve the mentoring they offer to students, and to limit the requirements for a degree.

AR tuition policy creates further problems by offering remissions only to students who work as teaching assistants or lecturers in degree-granting programs, and only in the specific quarters they TA or teach. This results in an unnecessarily increased demand for these scarce positions. Rather than dividing their time between gaining teaching experience and working on their dissertations, students in Advanced and Extended Residency feel obliged to teach and TA as much as possible in order to waive their tuition. This further extends our time to degree and creates congestion in the graduate student teaching system, which is already under great stress. Additionally, with the recent influx of students who need to TA due to contractual obligations of the Graduate Aid Initiative (GAI), many courses that were previously TA’d by students in AR are no longer available to them. This further compounds the financial strain on the AR student population.

Given the above reasons, as well as many we have not enumerated, it should be clear that the University of Chicago AR system presents a serious problem that can only be adequately resolved by the complete and immediate abolition of AR tuition and, by extension, of tuition assessed to students in Extended Residence (ER) and Pro Forma (PF). Short of this, we propose the following compromise measures:

    • That AR (as well as ER and PF) tuition not be assessed to anybody who TA’s or teaches for 2 out of the 4 quarters, and that students who TA or teach during the summer quarter be offered remissions later in the same academic year.
    • That students who teach two classes in a single quarter be granted tuition remission for two quarters that year.
    • That students who teach in non-degree-granting programs, or who work over 10 hours per week in non-teaching jobs on campus, thereby contributing to the intellectual production of the University, be awarded the same tuition remission as those who find TA or lecturer positions.
    • That tuition remission be offered for all teaching work, even if it is not conducted at the University of Chicago, so long as this work contributes to the student’s pedagogical training and to the academic community as a whole. This will serve, moreover, to relieve the imbalance of job-seekers relative to available jobs at the University of Chicago.
    • That personal leave be granted to any student who requests it, its only condition being that during the period of the student has the same access to university resources that any member of the public would have.
    • That all tuition be suspended for at least for two years, during which time the strain put on the graduate teaching system by the GAI can be reduced. Students not covered by the GAI will in this time be able to find appropriate teaching opportunities and will be able to finish their degrees at a healthy pace.
    • That if the administration does not take immediate action to reform its tuition policy, it waive all AR, ER, and PF tuition during the time it takes to reach its decision.

As the union representing graduate students at the University of Chicago, we will continue to place demands on the administration until our demands are met. We will voice the concerns of all graduate students, placing first and foremost the concerns of those most disadvantaged by the system of Advanced Residence.

The process of AR reform began because graduate students organized to demand it. The process will only be completed if we continue to organize. We therefore urge all concerned graduate students to join us in the present call.


Appendix A: Recommendation of The Report of the Working Group for Graduate Student Life in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Divinity School Provost’s Working Groups on the question of advanced residence (pp. 6-7)

[first recommendation:] Review of Tuition

We propose an urgent review of the level of Advanced Residence out-of-pocket tuition, and of the procedure by which annual increases are reckoned. This is an area of significant anxiety among graduate students. The Working Group is concerned that the level of this tuition has risen too quickly (see table below). We hope to see a reduction in this charge, and, ideally, a new formula for calculating future increases. We hope a decision can be made quickly so as to give relief to students currently in Advance Residence.

Advantages: The current level of AR tuition appears to us to be too high, and the method for calculating its annual increase arbitrary.

Disadvantages:None that we can foresee.

 

AcYr AR Out-of- Pocket Tuition/Qtr Per 3 Qtrs % Increase Annual Inflation Rate If Increase = Inflation Rate
1992-93 450 1350 3.03%
1993-94 475 1425 5.56% 2.96% 1,391
1994-95 510 1530 7.37% 2.61% 1,432
1995-96 550 1650 7.84% 2.81% 1,469
1996-97 590 1770 7.27% 2.93% 1,511
1997-98 620 1860 5.08% 2.34% 1,555
1998-99 650 1950 4.84% 1.55% 1,591
1999-00 683 2049 5.08% 2.19% 1,616
2000-01 557 1671 -18.45% 3.38% 1,651
2001-02 585 1755 5.03% 2.83% 1,707
2002-03 614 1842 4.96% 1.59% 1,756
2003-04 645 1935 5.05% 2.27% 1,784
2004-05 677 2031 4.96% 2.68% 1,824
2005-06 711 2133 5.02% 3.39% 1,873
2006-07 747 2241 5.02% 3.24% 1,936
2007-08 784 2352 4.95% 1,999
Average 3.97% 2.65%

[second recommendation:] Tuition Aid for AR1 [i.e. the first year of AR]

We suggest that the administration consider AR tuition aid for AR1, as a means of helping students in the final stages of graduate work. As other parts of our findings indicate, almost no students finish by this point, and both students and faculty worry about the “cliff” that AR1 represents, with graduate work losing momentum just as students need support for the push to completion.

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

Some faculty (but only two of the eight individuals with whom our Group’s Chair has discussed this issue) have worried that financial aid for tuition might reduce students’ motivation to finish, but they were referring to a suspension of AR tuition, not financial aid restricted to the first year.


Appendix B: Individual experiences of advanced residence tuition, sent to Graduate Students United:

I’m finishing up the last few months of my dissertation fieldwork and am preparing to come back to Chicago to write up. Since I had previously TA’ed for two course series in the SSCD core, and since I had received a lectureship (that I had to turn decline in order to go to the field) last year, I didn’t think there would be any problem finding a position as a lecturer or a TA upon my return. When I reapplied, however, I was told that I hadn’t been selected for a lectureship, and that there were no positions available for Winter or Spring 2010.

To put it bluntly, this is economically impossible for me. I’m simply not in a position to take out more loans to pay for AR for the year, and any job that would cover living expenses and AR would not allow me time to write up. There’s certainly something to the idea that AR is an incentive to make me finish faster: it’s going to make me finish early and leave the U of C without a degree.

* * *

I finished my pre-fieldwork requirements 2 years ago. But for personal reasons, I can’t yet go to the field. So I simply can’t make progress on my dissertation. But the AR system doesn’t allow me to take a leave of absence. I have no need to use any university resources, but I have to keep paying and paying, just to have my name on their books. As if it were such an honor.

Even if it were true that AR tuition makes us finish faster (which it isn’t!), who says we need to finish faster? Maybe sometimes it would be a good idea, but maybe I just have something better to do for the next year. It’s none of the administration’s business.

* * *

Is the burden of your AR fees a large or a small one? What are the effects of AR fees on your scholarship? What are the effects of AR fees on your completion of your degree?

The crux of these questions is whether or not the burden of advanced residency fees is such that it prevents students from completing their degrees in a timely fashion. My personal experience suggests that this will be the case. I am in my first year of advanced residency and I am still “in the field” conducting dissertation research. Without the opportunity to TA or teach, I have had to pay the advanced residency fees, which have used a substantial portion of my savings.

When I return to Chicago in September I HOPE to find a TA position (although I understand there is increasing competition and fewer opportunities) so that I will not have to pay the advanced residency fees. Indeed, as an international student, TAing, or some other on-campus employment, will be my primary source of income while I try to write my dissertation. Obviously, the time spent attending the class, holding weekly office hours and reading, commenting and grading student papers, is time that I will not be spending on my dissertation.

The argument that the “stick” of the AR fees is somehow an incentive for students to finish their dissertations quickly, simply doesn’t hold when we are faced with decreasing sources of income, increasing costs of living, increasing costs of health insurance premiums (insurance that the university requires us to have) and increasing AR fees. Students will seek to avoid paying these fees by teaching or TA, thus delaying their time to degree.

The Divisions of Social Sciences and the Humanities should abolish AR fees. They should also provide more grants and write-up fellowships for advanced students so that we do not have to rely on part- and full-time jobs to survive while we write our dissertations.

* * *

I am writing to describe the trials and tribulations of my experience as an advanced residency graduate student to you.In brief, the punitive logic of advanced residency has effected me negatively in material, intellectual, and, indeed, ‘spiritual’ ways. While the monetary burden of the fees themselves is not extreme, advanced residency students live an extremely marginal economic existence, in which even small expenses can be difficult to meet. Even without the burden of these fees, I would have had to take out further loans to support myself as I write my dissertation; because them, my loans–already significant from my undergraduate education–are substantially larger. Although this year’s increase in remuneration for graduate student instructors and TAs was welcome, an advanced residency student would have to teach at least one class each quarter in order to make ends meet. Needless to say, the time required to prepare class lectures and lessons detracts greatly from the time one spends writing the dissertation itself, resulting in a Catch-22 dilemma that quickly snowballs: The more that an advanced residency student teaches in order to pay the bills, the less time she devotes to the dissertation, and the further graduation retreats into the future. Taking a non-academic job is always an option, of course, but the detrimental effect on one’s dissertation is the same, if not worse.Since becoming an ABD student, I have opted to teach and take out loans in order to support myself, but the constraints of both money and time have been difficult to manage; advanced residency fees only exacerbate this already precarious situation.

More demoralizing than the financial annoyance of advanced residency fees is the University’s attitude toward advanced graduate students that the fees reflect and represent. There is a cynical hypocrisy to the punitive logic of the fees. Clearly, the University erroneously believes that exerting financial pressure on advanced graduate students will compel them to finish their dissertations more quickly, and thus cease to be a burden on the resources of the University. (The notion that some students are a more undesirable burden than others is itself a deep insult, especially considering the University of Chicago’s supposedly high intellectual ideals.) Simultaneously, the University is happy to suck as much money as it can from us while we are around, and thereby keeps us around longer precisely by claiming to encourage the opposite. Parenthetically, the notion that graduate student instructors do not deserve benefits such as health care because the experience of teaching is a privileged form of ‘training’ rather than real ‘work’ relies on this same hypocritical logic. While I have learned immense, valuable lessons as an instructor in the College’s core, I have never received anything that might be construed as ‘training’. Furthermore, I am acutely aware that encouraging graduate student teaching is one of the University’s strategies to untangle the financial and bureaucratic knot of a decreasing budget, an increasing undergraduate enrollment, and a virtual freeze on the hiring of full-time faculty. I hardly feel that my labor is a ‘privilege’ when it is so necessary to adjudicating the University’s incommensurable ideals of intellectual seriousness and profit.

In summary, both advanced residency fees and the University’s two-faced attitude toward graduate instructors send a clear, paradoxical message to students such as myself: Yes, we need you, but no, you are no longer welcome here.Trying to develop as a young scholar in such an environment is a Sisyphean task indeed.

Thank you for taking the time to read my screed. I hope that this helps you to empathize with some of the frustration that we advance residency graduate students experience on a daily basis.

* * *

As a fifth-year PhD candidate in the English department, I am writing to let you know my views on Advanced Residency Fees.

Due to the decreased number of dissertation-year fellowships that will be available in my department for the year 2009-2010, an unusually large number of students will have to make their living off of adjunct teaching and other temporary forms of work. The going rate for adjuncting in English departments across the city is $1500 per class. If I were to adjunct for one class each semester, a fully half of my income would go to advanced residence tuition, while the other half would be spent on my health insurance costs. Adjuncting for more than one class a semester would seriously cut into the time I have available for working on my dissertation, and would hinder my progress substantially.

The English department Graduate Student Handbook states that the expected time to degree is six years; speaking from personal experience it often takes students at the very least six, more often seven years to complete their projects and find employment. While I understand that the GAI was implemented to help decrease the time to completion, my cohort has not been the beneficiaries of the new funding structure. The current structure of advanced residency fees places an undue burden on current AR students who have been progressing on schedule.

While I appreciate all that has already been done to help students with AR fees (I’m thinking particularly of the “special tuition assistance” in the Humanities division that reduces our fees from $5,000/quarter to $780/quarter), I would like to suggest that the committee look at changing the fee structure to reflect the realistic expectations for progress set out by the individual departments, rather than implementing a structure that penalizes students that have already worked very hard to remain on track and risk falling behind in the final stages of their projects.

* * *

I’m writing to let you know my views, as a graduate student in my fifth year in the English department, on the impact of advanced residency fees.

I will enter Advanced Residency at the end of this academic year, at which point I will cease to receive a stipend from the university, as well as becoming eligible to pay tuition of $2100 per year plus the cost of health insurance.

At a stage of my academic career when I will be supporting myself primarily through freelance teaching the additional burden of advanced residency fees will undoubtedly have a substantial negative impact on my ability to complete my dissertation. This is especially true for the coming year, when the number of available dissertation-year fellowships, at least in my department, has had to be cut due to the economic crisis, and departmental teaching position are all but impossible to get for students who are not guaranteed them as part of their funding packages. During the 2009-10 academic year in particular, AR students will rely in greater than usual numbers on adjunct positions outside the University of Chicago, many of which pay as little as $1500 for a class. The economic crisis means that AR students will find it harder than usual both to get enough work to live on and to complete their dissertation research at the same time, a situation whose severity is exacerbated by the burden of paying AR fees in order to remain enrolled at the University.

I would also like to note that my department, like many others in the Humanities division, expects students to complete their dissertations “no later than six academic years after entering their program.” In practice, this means that students whom their department considers to be making normal progress in their dissertations are effectively penalized for doing so by the university.

I would urge the Advanced Residency committee to advise the university to bring its policy regarding AR fees into line with the expectations of individual departments, so that students considered to be making good progress within their own programs are not at the same time impeded in that progress by the university.

* * *

AR fees are a burden. Especially because they have to be paid in a large lump sum before the quarter starts. I inevitably pay $50 to $100 in late fees each quarter because I have trouble getting the money together. If they could be spread out in monthly payments that were smaller that alone would make a big difference. I work a lot of freelance odd jobs to pay the AR fees, which of course slows down the work of actually graduating……hopefully this will be the last year I pay them!

Of course its nice to have the option of health insurance, but if you are no longer resident at the university it would be nice if this were an option rather than a requirement. The health insurance is very expensive and if you are not at the university (which many in AR are not ) then you may be much better served with other arrangements, especially since it won’t pay for any regular checkups. but the health insurance suckiness is a separate issue.

* * *

Let me first say that i’m glad this matter is under review.

$784 per quarter for tuition is no small burden for me – nor is it for anyone i know. Seeing as AR students are not required to, and generally don’t, register for classes, paying that much for ‘tuition’ makes it all the more painful. Regardless of what it’s called though, it is large sum.

It of course affects the quality of scholarship and duration of the program. There are quarters when i have to devote myself entirely to TAing, working in a lab, as well as my part-time job at the library in order to meet this payment on top of all others i am faced with. Quite simply, my scholarship suffers since it’s intermittent at best and naturally extends the time until graduation.

If it is in the best interest of the University (to say nothing of us, the students) to have people graduate in a reasonable amount of time, then this policy seems to be a highly counterproductive one. I am hopeful that this situation will improve thanks to the findings of the committee.

* * *

The burden of AR fees is a large one in its effects on my scholarship and time toward completion of degree. Aside from opportunities such as dissertation write-up fellowships, which usually have restrictions on time and eligibility after having already received one, in face of AR fees and health insurance I must look for opportunities such as teaching fellowships to lay off costs. Teaching, of course, requires a significant time commitment, one which takes away from one’s ability to focus on dissertation writing (and research for some), thereby extending the period required for one to complete the degree. Moreover, given the averages in my department and the division (Social Sciences) for students to complete their degrees, to reduce the AR period from 12 to 7 years would be unconscionable. This university is well-known and in many cases commendable for its high standards and exacting demands on Ph.D. students. To force them into Extended Residence after such a short period of time would only be to the detriment of these students and the quality of their work, and may likely as well serve as a deterrent to potential applicants.

* * *

I am in my first year of AR and still pre-field in Anthropology. AR as it stands is a fairly significant burden as I have no funding beyond 4th year and uncertainty regarding the timing of my proposal hearing and departure for the field make TAing difficult–assuming that TA positions would even still be available given the restructured funding packages and teaching requirements being discussed.

 

However, the current duration of 8 years of AR (12 years total graduate student affiliation) seems absolutely vital for graduate students, anthropology students in particular. The idea that one could be expected to finish, with any certainty, within 7 years before being ‘cut loose’ to begin paying back loans (as I have) and moved into Extended Residency is absurd. The view from inside the graduate student experience must be conveyed to those making these decisions. That view is one of great uncertainty and insecurity–financial and otherwise–which would be unmanageably compounded by the pressure to finish PhD quality intellectual production–in the form of a dissertation–in such short time.

 

* * *

It is my understanding that the Provost’s Committee on Advanced Residence and Time to Degree is currently reviewing the Advanced Residency system. I should say that my greatest complaint with the system is that it discourages people from maintaining the University as their intellectual home, especially when their interests develop or change. In my own case, I switched from studying medieval Indian poetry to 20th century labor politics, shifting from the S. Asian Lang. & Civ. Dept. to a joint-Ph.D. with both SALC and History. This, of course, prolonged my time at the U. of C. It was, in effect, re-starting my graduate education, which I might have done at another institution. But I fail to see what interest the University has in creating incentives for me to continue my studies at another university, which is what in effect happened (though the Advanced Residency system was not actually in place when I made the choice to switch from the

7th to the 20th century).

 

It also happens that my studies were prolonged for reasons wholly beyond my control, namely the refusal by the Government of India to grant research authorization for me pursue my doctoral research, which forced me to abandon years of research and to come up with a new dissertation project. Neither I nor any of my advisers foresaw this as a possibility, but, under the Advanced Residency system, the hardship that this academic Act of God caused was considerably amplified. I should also point out that Advanced Residency bars from receiving thousands of dollars that were earmarked for me to use in the write-up stage of my Ph.D. by COSAS. I had not applied for that money earlier precisely because I wanted to save it to help me finish in good time.

 

Instead I was rendered ineligible to use this money and forced to find temporary teaching assignments. Then, of course, there is the fact that Advanced Residency forces one to begin repaying student loans. These, and not the mere payment of tuition, are the most serious and, I believe, widespread grievances that have resulted from the imposition of the Advanced Residency system.

 

In general, I would say that the reason most students take a long time to graduate lies with their departments or their committees or other external causes and not with themselves. The advanced residency policy, by failing to acknowledge this, fails to advance its ostensible purpose of facilitating students’ completion of their degrees. It is experienced as what it is – a punitive system, introduced, in the case of students of my vintage, ex post facto, at a time when they could not alter previous decisions.

 

I believe the Advanced Residency should be revoked, though even this would not make up for the considerable amount of grief it has needlessly caused already. Thank you for considering my views in this matter.

 

* * *

 

This is my first year without a fellowship (my sixth year in the philosophy department). My partner teaches second grade at a Catholic school, which pays under $30,000 per year and the Archdiocese announced this year that to save money, they are not going to give any teachers at Catholic school the standard pay increase that comes with every additional year of teaching experience. With the cost of living in Chicago, that alone has made us work hard to live well enough within our means. To make my contribution to our rent, utilities, groceries and other living expenses this year, I have taken on two CAships in the philosophy department, a writing internship in the core curriculum through the Writing Program each quarter and a position as graduate assistant adviser for the PRISM program (coordinating academic and social events for undergraduate philosophy students). I have also elected to serve as a teaching consultant for the Center for Teaching and Learning and to continue a research position I have had through a Regenstein librarian since my first year here. While those last two jobs might seem like too much, I was worried about our making ends meet and wanted to ensure we had funds particularly for rent payments during the summer when my income is most uncertain.

Working around those time commitments, I have been able to write one chapter this year so far, but my dissertation work plan would rather have me complete two in that time, and had I won a fellowship I more likely would have been able to do this. I don’t want to complain about being busy because I think that every grad student, faculty member and university administrator is just as busy as I am. But I do want to point out that the majority of my time-management efforts have had to go toward those extra jobs rather than toward writing my dissertation, applying for conferences, submitting essays for publication (which I have had to put on the back burner this quarter), writing up a teaching statement, and other efforts toward being ready for the job market, and in no small part because I have to be able to pay a fee of over $800 to secure my advanced residency status. I believe that even if this fee were only reduced to, say, $500, it would ease this financial pressure enough to let me devote more time to job-related activities rather than to trying to keep my bills and credit afloat.

I hope (and imagine) my one anecdote harmonizes with any others you might hear or read concerning this issue, and that it will influence you to consider ways of reducing the advanced residency fee. Thank you for listening to my thoughts on this matter.

* * *

 

The fee burden is a large one for me (I am now in my 9th year). It has affected me decision whether to teach or not in a given quarter, because the extra financial incentive to have the fee waived for a quarter in which you’re teaching in the College has made a given teaching offer more attractive, especially in previous years when it was paying only 3500 per quarter – and this may have affected my finish time as I have taken on extra teaching just to cover it.

However, I have a much bigger issue I’d like to air. I think it is UNFAIR and UNJUST that if I teach in other programs in the University then I DO NOT get the tuition waiver, and have to pay the full advanced residency out of my teaching salary – a salary which is already stretched by having to pay for health insurance, rent, and living costs. For example, at the moment I am teaching a course at the Graham School of General Studies at the University of Chicago, and nearly my entire pay for the quarter – which is not much, at $1225 before taxes – goes straight back to the University in the form of the advanced residency tuition.

Worse, I feel, is the fact that I am also teaching a college-level class (with college credit) through the University of Chicago Civic Knowledge Project to low-income students on the West side of Chicago, for whom this is a rare and valuable opportunity, and who attend the classes for free, and I have to pay advanced residency tuition out of my teaching salary (which is already significantly less than the teaching salary for teaching college undergrads – 3800 compared to 5000). Why should grad students teaching our college undergrads get their tuition waived, when I teach low-income students in the community in a University project and have to pay my tuition?

Note that I teach these classes out of choice – I have also been teaching in the University College this year (twice) – and I would never let the University’s policy of charging me for advanced residency tuition when I teach outside of the College prevent me from doing that as these community teaching experiences are rare and valuable experiences for all concerned. Nevertheless, there is no question that this financial policy has soured my relationship with the University, and has contributed to extending my finishing time as I take on ever-more teaching assignments to pay for my advanced residency tuition.

 

* * *

The tuition cost combined with insurance fees in advanced residency has caused significant hardship, and has probably lost me three years of my life. I will be done by Spring, but I would be happy to speak up so that others do not go through the same.


[1] “The Report of the Working Group for Graduate Student Life in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Divinity School,” p. 7. See also Appendix A.

[2] Ibid. Note that officially the tuition levels are actually much higher than $784 per quarter, but in one of those marvels of administrative accounting, most divisions pay a large part of this tuition, enabling them to feel generous. $784 per quarter is the amount that most students in the Social Sciences, Humanities, and Divinity School are required to pay.

[3] Reported time-to-degree figures for departments in the Humanities and Social Sciences Divisions that do report figures range from 7.6 in Germanic Studies, to a median of 8.2 yrs in History and Philosophy, and 9.1 in Anthropology (Source: phds.org). And according to figures compiled by the University of Chicago’s own NORC, national averages for time to degree in social sciences and humanities range even higher, 7.9 and 9.3 years respectively.

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