After students withhold payment, UChicago will cover controversial fees for doctoral programs starting this fall

HYDE PARK — University of Chicago doctoral students will have hundreds of annual fees covered under their funding programs starting in the fall after students pledged not to pay the controversial fees until whether they are reduced or abandoned.

The UChicago graduate student services fee is $1,296 for students attending all three terms of the year. Beginning in the fall term, all divisions and schools will cover the costs of their doctoral students.

“The university will extend support for graduate student services fees to divisions and schools that did not already include the fee in their doctorate. funding packages,” spokesman Gerald McSwiggan said.

The announcement comes amid a “fee denial campaign” by the Graduate Students United union that has won the support of more than a dozen graduate directors at the university.

The students have refused to pay the “problematic” and “unfair” fees, while demanding that officials make public the university’s use of the money.

“After we racked up $100,000 in so-called debt to the university, the university ran perfectly,” said Rina Sugawara, union co-chair and doctoral student in the music department. “It was a clear sign to us of the unnecessary demand that this fee really was.”

McSwiggan did not share a budget breakdown showing what the fee pays, saying Monday that “many essential services” in graduate programs are possible because of the fee.

These include medical and counseling services available through UChicago Student Wellness and “a wide range of programs” through the Office of Campus and Student Life, including disability services, an on-call deans program, recreation facilities, student government budgets and international student immigration services, McSwiggan said.

“The vast majority of graduate students” have paid fees for the current winter term, McSwiggan said. About 500 people have signed a pledge refusing to pay fees as of last summer, while about 10,500 graduate students are attending the university.

The Office of Bursar may block enrollment on student accounts with unpaid fees. Suspensions are placed beginning in the sixth week of each term and prevent students from registering for future terms, obtaining a transcript, graduating, or graduating.

Students can contact the bursar’s office to discuss payment options, McSwiggan said.

The University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park.

Sugawara, who said he owes $1,900 in student services fees, will continue to withhold payment.

“Having an enrollment suspension means, as an international student, my visa is in jeopardy,” Sugawara said. “Obviously we’re going to keep fighting how ridiculous this is – that they could possibly expel a student for not paying this fee [when] we don’t even know what that covers.

Graduate students in the music department have racked up about $30,000 in unpaid fees, which they are raising funds to cover “in the worst case scenario,” Sugawara said.

While securing funding for doctoral student service fees is a victory, “ending the campaign now would be a concession,” Sugawara said. The students will push the university to cover master’s student fees, cancel the debt of anyone who withheld payment, and reimburse “anyone who has paid these fees in the last year,” she said. declared.

“We firmly believe [the fee’s inclusion in funding packages] was kind of a carrot, and the stick is coming,” Sugawara said. “We cannot end this campaign without fighting one last time to have the charges waived. [for] all graduate students.

Refusing to pay service fees created “a bureaucratic mess for the institution,” which likely helped administrators cover fees in the future, said Sam Herrmann, a second-year master’s student at Divinity School. .

“With enough people held up, you now need to track down all of those people to put them on payment plans,” said Herrmann, who has racked up $1,200 in unpaid fees after about a year of withholding payment.

With fees all but abolished for doctoral students, master’s students should be the next group for which “totally unnecessary fees” should be covered, Herrmann said. He plans to graduate with his master’s degree in June and is awaiting a decision on his application to the Divinity School’s doctoral program.

Master’s students “serve a purpose, and I think that’s something we need to continue to champion,” Herrmann said. “It’s a huge win to have made the progress we have so far. My involvement in the union is not just for me individually, but to collectively build a better university. We want to keep pushing.

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