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Higher Ed In Brief

NYU Grad Students Secure Major Contract Gains

The graduate student union at NYU overwhelmingly ratified a landmark contract this spring after more than a year of negotiations. The union, GSOC-UAW Local 2110, is the only union of graduate employees that is recognized by a legally binding contract at a private university. “There are some historic gains that we’ve earned, and I mean earned,” Chris Nickell, a PhD student in music at NYU told Inside Higher Ed. “They weren’t given to us.”

Among those gains are 4% raises for fully funded teaching assistants, a family health care fund and guaranteed annual minimum increases on total compensation of at least 2.25%.

From 2001 to 2005, NYU’s teaching and research assistants were recognized as a collective bargaining unit. But when the National Labor Relations Board decided that graduate employees at Brown University were primarily students and not workers, the administration refused to negotiate a new contract when the grad union’s contract expired. In a surprise turn in 2013, NYU voluntarily decided to recognize the union.

Graduate employees at other private universities, like Columbia, Yale and the University of Chicago, hope that their union organizing efforts reach similar victories.

“We are all very excited and congratulate our colleagues at New York University,” Paul Katz, a Columbia PhD candidate in history told Inside Higher Ed. “Their campaign has been an inspiration to us at Columbia and to the growing movement of graduate employees organizing across the Northeast.”


CUNY Refunds Excess Tuition Payments by Undocumented Students

More than 150 undocumented students at the City University of New York overpaid their tuition. As a result, CUNY is returning thousands of dollars that are owed to these students. CUNY officials say that 6,500 undocumented students attended CUNY in Fall 2013.

The student group, CUNY DREAMers, alerted school officials about the overpayment. The students paid higher, out-of-state tuition rates even though they were eligible by a 2002 state law for in-state rates. The difference in tuition is about $4,000 per semester.

“I was going to quit school. It was too expensive,” Freddy Vicuna, a computer engineering student at City College told the Associated Press. Vicuna was one of the undocumented students who was overcharged, and CUNY has already returned $7,500 in overpayments to him. CUNY officials told the Associated Press that they’ve done a complete review and are in the process of refunding excess payments.

The group CUNY DREAMers canvassed CUNY’s campuses, sharing information on in-state tuition rates available to qualified undocumented students. The group’s Facebook page stated, “Not only did we ensure that undocumented students were being treated fairly, but we also saved students from dropping out of college.”

Nineteen states, including New York, offer in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants. Unlike California and Texas, there is no state-funded financial aid available to undocumented students in New York. Immigrant advocates are seeking passage of the NY DREAM Act this legislative session. The measure would allow certain undocumented students to receive state aid.