Rutgers management proposed to take away tuition remission benefits from staff
During the last round of contract negotiations, Rutgers management sent a clear message to faculty and staff: Abandon all hope of a better future.
While refusing to even talk about pay raises, University management has sharpened its knives and set to carve out one of the most important benefits of working at Rutgers: tuition remission.
For those who are unfamiliar, faculty and staff who work for Rutgers and their children are entitled to full tuition remission. If you read the fine print, there’s a hidden limit of a few thousand dollars per year, about enough to take three classes. If you are even one dollar over that mystery amount, the tuition remission is counted as additional income and becomes taxable. Many employees have inadvertently had their paychecks cut in half by going over the amount.
For years, the University used the tuition remission program to justify paying lower wages to workers. I personally had that leveled at me during a job interview, when I said I was seeking a better position because I was not making enough money. Their idea was that even if your pay was insufficient, you could earn a degree with tuition remission and then find a better paying job somewhere else. Therefore, why should they pay you what you are worth now?
Management wants to maintain tuition remission for the children of faculty and staff, but if you were planning on working your way through college, you are now out of luck. By taking tuition remission away, management is closing the door on employees being able to escape their increasingly underpaid positions and locking in some of the potentially best and brightest minds for peanuts.
It also sets management up to be in a better position to cut raises in the future, as it traps employees who are stuck between degrees. Rutgers management is starting to sound like a cheap leg breaker from a mafia movie. “You still working on your undergrad degree? Oh, did you need a doctorate to get that job? Well, shut up and get back to work because you ain’t goin’ no-wheres!”
The only bright side to management’s “War on Fair Compensation” is that faculty and staff are becoming more involved with our unions. Faculty, staff, their families, members of the student body and the general public are supporting the unions more as information about Rutgers imaginary budgetary shortcomings spreads. It’s hard to turn your pockets out and pretend you’re broke when your pants cost $500 a pair.
Once the Bunsis report on the University’s finances came out, the carefully crafted facade that Rutgers was cutting costs because we are broke started to crumble. With over $4 billion (yes, with a b) in assets and at last count more than $600 million in discretionary funds, Rutgers easily has the money to cover salary increases, tuition remission and invest in long overdue building maintenance and academic support.
If you want to help support the faculty and staff that make the University great, you can sign the petition at Reclaim Rutgers at www.reclaimrutgers.org.
Robert Krack is a Library Associate at Alexander Library.
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