The Lead

Temple rescinds free tuition for striking grad students 

By: - February 9, 2023 1:06 pm
Protesters gather at the Temple University bell tower during rally on Thursday 2/2/23 (Capital-Star photo by Michala Butler).

PHILADELPHIA – Officials at Temple University have rescinded free tuition benefits for striking graduate students and given them until March 9 to pay as tensions heightened between the two sides.

“As a result of your participation in the … strike, your tuition remission has been removed for the spring semester. You now owe the full balance listed in TUpay, which is due by Thursday, March 9,” officials wrote in a Wednesday email reviewed by the Capital-Star. 

The university also emphasized that if the balance is not paid in full by the due date, students will be assessed a $100 late payment fee and a financial hold will be placed on their student account. This hold will prevent the student from future registration, which would affect their academic progress in their respective program. 

Members of the Temple University Graduate Students’ Association went on strike earlier this month, demanding better wages and working conditions, and longer parental and bereavement leave. It was the first such walkout in the union’s history since its founding in 1979, the Capital-Star previously reported.

The current average pay for Temple University graduate employees is $19,500 a year. The tuition remission, meanwhile, is worth up to $20,000 a year, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Many TUGSA members and supporters took to social media and reshared the email sent by the university to create more awareness around the realities that they are now facing as they continue to picket on campus each day. 

Master of Political Science student, Raegan Davis, told the Capital-Star that one of the reasons she chose temple over more prestigious institutions was due to the fact that it was supposed to be the financially responsible decision. 

“I, like many others, was told that I would have a stipend I could live on in exchange for the many hours of work I do for this university,” Davis said. “Instead, I have had to take out loans, accruing tens of thousands of dollars of debt that I did not have before in order to supplement my salary, which is low enough to qualify for food stamps. Now my tuition remission is taken away, which makes my financial situation more difficult.”

Davis also said that no other academic institution has taken away tuition remission in retaliation against student strikes. 

“With their decision, now I have to take out more loans, with money that was supposed to pay for groceries, rent and utilities,” Davis said. “I shouldn’t have had to take out that much money in loans in the first place, but now I am in debt, due to an act of retaliation for an entirely legal strike protected by the First Amendment.” 

Master of Music in Choral Conducting student, Lily Carmichael, told the Capital-Star she will be on strike until the administration accepts TUGSA’s demands despite the email they received. 

“The administration’s decision to remove our tuition remission and health care is heartbreaking,” Carmichael said. “To threaten members of their own community–human beings who are already barely getting by–is not only unethical to the university’s mission, but also wholly damaging to the Temple community.”

Temple University Provost Gregory Mandel sent an email out to the entire Temple student population Wednesday evening stating his appreciation for students’ continued focus on learning during this, “disruptive period of time.” 

“We want you to know that striking TUGSA members have no authority to cancel classes or make any promises regarding your attendance, grades or any other matter related to courses they are no longer teaching,” Mandel said in the email. “We appreciate the more than 80 percent of TUGSA members who have remained on the job and continue to teach and conduct research.”

Mandel also said the university’s goal is to minimize interruptions and that they are continuing to meet with TUGSA representatives and the state mediators to work toward an agreement.

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Michala Butler
Michala Butler

Correspondent Michala Butler covers Philadelphia for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.