How can the UC ensure that its graduate students continue to do path-breaking research? Simple: it can pay them a decent living wage.
Here are three reasons why we are calling for a pay raise:
First, graduate students work very hard to get to where they are, dedicating years of life to study, overcoming a battery of standardized tests, meeting the rigorous selection criteria for admissions, and finally forgoing other professional opportunities in order to make important intellectual contributions.
Second, graduate students often hope to pursue careers as professors (if they are successful and lucky enough to get a job). While this isn’t a bad life choice necessarily, it won’t be as lucrative as going into medicine or law. So, it’s harder to ask graduate students to take out more student loans to fund their education (not to mention their time spent doing research that benefits the university).
Finally, many doctoral programs require between four and seven years to complete. Graduate students are often at a point in their lives where other young adults might consider starting a family. It’s hard to do this if you don’t make a living wage.
We all know that the current economy isn’t as strong as it could be, and everyone is aware of how woefully underfunded public education is.
Yet these realities aren’t just happenstance or “facts of life”; they reflect important societal choices about where to allocate our resources. Even in this “bad” economy, the stock market has reached record heights. It’s not that we don’t have the money for strong public education and research in California or nationally – it’s that the working and the middle classes are being left behind by an economy that prioritizes wealth over principle.
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Los Angeles