Undergraduate students at UC San Diego who are employed in an academic capacity for the University may be entitled to tuition remission, essentially free in-state tuition, according to the San Diego unit of UAW Local 2865, the UC Student Workers’ Union.
It is currently unclear how many students are eligible for tuition remission, as the majority of UCSD’s approximately 2,000 readers, tutors, teaching assistants (TA), and instructional assistants (IA) are graduate students. Among the few hundred academic student employees at UCSD who are undergraduates, only those working in the TA or IA capacity for at least ten hours each week (25% or higher of full-time) are potentially eligible for tuition remission, as written in the 2014 contract agreement negotiated by the union and the University of California.
The contract states that these students are “eligible to participate in the University’s Partial Fee Remission Program for Tuition and the Student Services Fee.” It clarifies that “Partial Fee Remission” means 100% of (in-state) tuition and the Student Services Fee for eligible students will be paid by the University.
“Many student workers aren’t aware they are covered by a union contract, making knowledge of the tuition remission benefit difficult to come by. This is especially true for undergraduate workers who, unlike graduates, wouldn’t otherwise expect tuition remission,” said union Head Steward Angela Berti. She said that other than reading the contract themselves, these students would currently need to be informed of their eligibility for tuition remission through the University, their department, or a faculty member.
Recently, the union stewards at UC Berkeley resolved this same issue for Cal undergraduates who sent in appointment letters to their union representatives, returning thousands of dollars to each affected student. In order to do the same for students at UCSD, the union plans to file a grievance with the University on behalf of students who are entitled to tuition remission.
If this issue is not resolved through UCSD Labor Relations after the union files grievance, an external state arbitrator would be brought in. However, according to the union, the University is legally obligated to meet the remission requirements for all eligible students due to the language in the 2014 contract, and the union expects the University to comply without the need for arbitration.
“The University is committed to abiding by its contractual obligations to academic student employees, including undergraduate teaching assistants at UCSD,” said UC Labor Relations Executive Director Peter Chester.
According to Terri Winbush, UCSD Human Resources senior director of labor relations & employee relations, employees already receive appointment letters that describe the benefits they are eligible for. “My understanding is that departments automatically process fee remission when appropriate based on the contract,” Winbush said.
UAW Local 2865, run by student volunteers, is re-negotiating its 2018 contract with the University starting this quarter and is making efforts to reach out to all student workers to educate them about their rights as university employees. Union representatives from the UC Student Workers’ Union are hosting information tables around campus to encourage undergraduate awareness and involvement in their union and related issues, and have already spoken with several undergraduate students who are eligible for full tuition remission but have not yet received it.
“Any eligible undergraduates should contact our union at email@example.com to provide a verifiable appointment letter,” said Head Steward Hosam Yousif. “Upon demonstrating that the student is working at least ten hours per week as a TA or IA for the University, our union would include them in the list of affected employees and work to ensure they receive all benefits to which they’re entitled.”
Cora Becker is a contributing writer at The Triton.