And adjunct lecturer in her sixth year of a doctoral program in Sociology teaches a Sociology 101 class three hours a week at a senior college, and earns the CUNY standard $2832.75 for her work. Despite years of education and of teaching experience, she is not eligible for a pay raise as an adjunct because in all her years of teaching at CUNY she was not appointed for six consecutive semesters as an adjunct at that one senior college.

Next door is a second year doctoral student from the same program, also teaching a section of Sociology 101, and teaching for the first time. But this Graduate Center Fellow earns, in effect, $12,500 for teaching the exact same course as the adjunct.

What’s more, the Fellow, as a first time instructor, often asks the adjunct for assistance on an array of things, from navigating the various offices at the senior college to designing assessments. The adjunct happily obliges in providing her guidance and expertise to help out this new Fellow.

When Graduate Center students enter their 11th semester of their programs, they are no longer eligible for tuition remission (except in the few cases of dissertation-year fellowships). What happens, then, is that these students in semesters 11 and beyond often work for CUNY in various fellowships or as adjuncts, but effectively receive a paycut as they must now start paying back some of the money that they earn as tuition. For those moving from the position of Fellow to adjunct in the 11th semester, this change is jarring, as an adjunct must teach four 3-credit courses a semester to even come close to what a new Graduate Center Fellow earns in the same year for teaching a single class each semester. On top of that, the adjunct must pay back, at minimum, $1,130 in tuition per semester (if the student is in-state and Level III), effectively requiring the teaching of an additional course to cover this amount over the course of the year.

The DSC has been told by various administrators in the past that the logic behind the ten-semester cap on tuition remission is to encourage students to complete their degrees faster. Yet with the average doctoral time-to-degree across the country being over seven years–and this includes many schools like Columbia and NYU that fully-fund students for four or five years with no workload requirements–the ten-semester-cap logic is completely skewed. With many Graduate Center students from current and earlier co-horts being unfunded or underfunded, expanding tuition remission to 16 semesters is the simplest and most effective way CUNY can assure that the time-to-degree for its doctoral students is reduced. Not offering tuition remission beyond the tenth semester maintains an overworked and underpaid, expert and exploited workforce for CUNY as Level III students take on greater workloads as adjuncts while struggling to complete their dissertations, publish, attend conferences and other professional development activities, and go on the job market with a strong CV.

To keep pace with our peer doctoral institutions around the country and to offer a modicum of economic relief for the excellent Graduate Center students who expertly work for CUNY as fellows and adjuncts in their 11th semester and beyond, CUNY Central MUST provide expanded tuition remission to 16 semesters.


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