The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition announced a “fee strike” Monday in which its members will refuse to pay mandatory student fees. The group is encouraging other graduate students to join the boycott.
While certain courses and departments require additional fees, IGWC is primarily focused on the combined mandatory fee which includes a student health fee, technology fee, transportation fee, activity fee and repair and rehabilitation fee.
The combined mandatory fee for full-time students amounts to $703.19 for the spring 2021 semester, according to the IU Student Central webpage. This is an increase of 2.5% from the 2019-2020 academic year, in which the combined mandatory fee for full-time students amounted to $686.03. International students are required to pay an additional $350 per semester.
Coalition member and graduate student Pallavi Rao said the increase in fees was not accompanied by an increase in wages, leaving her to pay more in fees with a stagnant salary.
“Many students have just sort of come together and realized that we can't survive this,” Rao said. “I'm in my mid 30s, I'm going to be graduating hopefully this year, but I have no savings from being in grad school for the last 10 years.”
While IGWC has combatted these fees through numerous protests and petitions since 2019, the pandemic escalated the group’s outrage and limited its ability to hold in-person demonstrations. Rao said she felt it is illogical to increase fees while decreasing access to university resources such as computer labs, access to academic buildings and activities.
Rao said the combined mandatory fee covers technology and activities that are no longer available to students in the same capacity as they have been in previous years.
“So why are we being asked to pay it?” Rao said.
IGWC released a statement presenting its frustration with the fees and saying efforts to negotiate with IU’s administration were ineffective. In this statement, IGWC encouraged graduate workers to sign a pledge to withhold their payment of spring 2021 fees.
IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said the mandatory fees fund resources used by graduate students for both in-person and remote instruction. According to Carney, students with entirely online coursework are eligible for reduced mandatory fees. A comprehensive list and explanation of fees is available on One.IU.
According to IU Student Center, only students not residing in Bloomington are eligible for discounted fees.
Carney said fees account for additional training and equipment necessary for virtual instruction while also continuing to pay faculty and staff.
The fee strike is one of the coalition’s many initiatives to advocate for graduate students. According to the IGWC website, other goals include instituting a minimum graduate worker salary that meets IU’s calculations for the cost of living in Bloomington and yearly raises that account for inflation.
“It's sort of scary to go into the world claiming you have an advanced degree that makes you an expert in your field, but you have literally no savings to fall back upon,” Rao said. “You just feel completely sort of impoverished by the process.”