Teaching graduate students work very hard -- we are the backbone of UB's teaching and research, and deserve to be supported by the administration. We should not have to panic about making sure we have a place to live and food to eat for the first month of the semester. We don't think we were sufficiently warned about a major change in UB’s financial aid disbursement policy, and the effects have been serious.
Click here to view the memo sent by the Dean for Undergraduate Education & the Dean of the Graduate School. The memo itself is really confusing, and doesn't say what day exactly the funds will be disbursed. The previous policy was straightforward: money was released 10 days before classes began. Additionally, this new policy memo wasn't brought to our attention when we accepted our aid offers, nor did we receive anything by mail.
We demand the administration to return to the old disbursement policy for teaching graduate students. Teaching graduate students already make very little money, on average $12000/year, and our paychecks come out on a lagging cycle: technically, our appointments began Aug. 18, but our first paychecks come in Sept. 14. Classes begin Aug. 29, so we are working for a full month before we see any pay. In the meantime, we may need to return to Buffalo, move our families, buy supplies for our classes, get the books we are teaching from, upgrade our computers, eat, secure housing...you name it.
Most of us receive a tuition waiver, but many of us take out a small amount in federal loans to cover these costs for the month we will be in Buffalo before we receive a paycheck, and to pay the nearly $800 in fees that the university charges on top of tuition that aren't covered by the waiver. Many grad students, not aware of the change in policy, did not budget for a month between their summer activities and their first paycheck. Like most people, teaching grad students don’t have a five-week cushion to survive on. While it looks unlikely that we'll get the money any earlier this semester, the administration needs to know that we are hurting, and that the policy change, in which we had no say, is directly and negatively affecting our lives on campus.
The explanation that we have teased out from the Student Resource Center and Financial Aid is that the administration is concerned about students who accept loans, get the deposit in their bank accounts, and then withdraw their enrollment. While we can see how this is a concern, the compounded effects of our pay lag, lack of effort on the part of the administration to publicize details of the new policy have made it especially hard for us. Plus, we can't imagine that this issue would be an issue for graduate students -- we're in school because we want to be, and these are our jobs, which we have accepted.
There is not an explanation that makes this policy change make sense to us. We expect our administration to consider the outcome of their policy, especially since we are not part of this decision-making process.