In response to budget crises, colleges across campus are slashing programs for graduate students and undergraduates alike, the latest of which was chronicled Monday when The Daily Texan ran a story covering the student response to proposed cuts to the physics department’s available teaching assistant positions. Reminiscent of the College of Liberal Arts’ TA task force meetings earlier this year considering similar cuts, this newest consideration just goes to show that the trend isn’t limited to non-STEM fields.
It is generally acknowledged today that a bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma: It is no longer a guarantee of a career and it is just an expected minimal step for many job options. Graduate school is increasingly necessary for university students to reach their goals. But so much time spent in school is not cheap. Teaching positions at the University have long been integral to not only funding a student’s tuition and living expenses, but also to immersing them in their new fields.
Reasonably so, the colleges explain their efforts are to increase the comprehensive stipends they can provide to each graduate student. Since their budgets aren’t predicted to go up anytime soon, the only way to increase individual stipends is to decrease the division of stipends, concentrating funding so that the lucky individuals who do receive one of the positions can continue in the traditional academic vein without financial worry.
But, as noted by UT’s Graduate Student Assembly in a piece of legislation approved last night, this is a poor solution to an ever-present problem. Funding deficits will not just go away, and cutting these positions would create a dangerous precedent for future graduate students who will constantly be subject to job insecurity. It is clear that the bottom line is valued more than the graduate student experience. UT Colleges need to do some serious introspection on their purpose as an educational institution to find a better solution.
Haight is an associate editor.