Full-time graduate assistants get stipend raise

By Ahyen Labanan

DeKALB — NIU’s Division of Finance and Administration raised the minimum stipend rate for full-time graduate assistants Aug. 16 to be $1,500 per month, according to a March 29 memo obtained through a FOIA request.

The minimum stipend rate for part-time graduate assistants did not change for the 2019-2020 academic year.

NIU offered 1,211 GA positions in fiscal year 2019. 757 of those positions were full-time and 454 were part-time. 1,248 GA positions were offered for fiscal year 2020. There are 776 GAs that will work full-time, while 472 will work part-time, according to university data.

The memo states the university would fund the difference between the 2018-2019 full-time GA rate and the $1,500 per month rate.

The university did not have the total amount of funding provided by the university as of Sep. 23, according to an email from NIU’s FOIA office.

The stipend rate increase was created by a task force involving associate deans from each college, along with Jerry Blazey, vice president for research and innovation partnerships, Jeff Reynolds, director of decision support and analysis, and Bradley Bond, dean of the graduate school, according to the memo.

The raise was one of NIU President Lisa Freeman’s FY19 presidential goals.

Natasha Johnson, business administrative associate at University Recreation and Wellness, said GAs at the recreation center were ecstatic about the raise, and it helped make them more competitive.

“I’ve known several people who have stopped being full-time [employees]… to become GAs because the wage increase was such a huge difference,” Johnson said. “It made it more appealing to them instead of working full-time to get a graduate assistant position where they could make more and work less hours.”

Paramahansa Pramanik has worked as a graduate teaching assistant for the department of mathematical sciences since January 2013. Pramanik said the stipend increase serves as motivation for him to teach in a more intensive way.

“That kind of salary increase actually [motivates me] to work more and because I am interested in [academia] in the future after getting my Ph.D,” Pramanik said.

Each week, Pramanik said he grades online student discussions, administers and grades quizzes, works at the mathematics assistance center, maintains regular office hours and he covers instructors if necessary. He is also pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematical sciences, he said.

“You feel like more responsible; you will work much more harder to teach your students [and] you will be more [patient] when students [are] actually complaining, so that [stipend raise] probably helps you a lot,” Pramanik said.