Graduate Student Compensation

The most important thing to remember when thinking about this strike, is that the participants, before all else are students pursuing an advanced degree–degrees that are required for many positions both within and outside academia.

For those who may be unfamiliar, graduate degrees fall generally into two types–a Master’s or Professional degree and Doctorate or “Terminal” degree. Most non-doctoral degrees are not terminal in academic terms, with the exception of the Master of Fine Arts (MFA). The MFA is an academically recognized terminal degree and is given to practitioners in the fine arts and performing arts.

While Master’s and Professional degrees tend to be self-funding, terminal degree candidates at Santa Cruz are often funded through some combination of Teaching Assistantship and Graduate Student Researchship. These academic apprentice positions provide the largest source of UCSC student support and constitute an important aspect of graduate training under the guidance of the UCSC faculty.

Teaching Assistant Contracts

In general, Teaching Assistants are employed at a 50% level which equates to 20 hours per week. Their responsibilities often include grading, holding sections, and holding office hours. They are covered by a union negotiated, system-wide contract that includes—in addition to a salary of $2434/month:

  • Tuition and fees (~$1533/month for in-state students)
  • 3% annual wage increases (in line with other University employees)
  • A childcare subsidy of $3,300 per year (unique to TAs)
  • A one-time signing bonus, and
  • A complete remission of any health care premiums (~$540/month)

Graduate Student Support

Over the past two months, UC Santa Cruz has committed to additional support for graduate students in recognition of the housing crisis faced by our community. Currently, 95% of fall grades have been submitted.


Doctoral and MFA students within five and two years, respectively, and in good academic, conduct, and employment standing will be awarded annual $2,500 housing supplement until additional affordable campus housing for graduate students becomes available. In response to concerns that using a needs-based approach, even one expanded to include students who typically cannot apply for need-based aid, would disadvantage some students, the housing supplement will not be based on need.

In recognition of the immediateness of this need, eligible graduate students who submit fall, winter, and spring grades will receive the $2,500 housing supplement retroactively in summer 2020. Doctoral and MFA students supported through GSR/Fellowship appointments will be included in the retroactive receipt of the housing supplement.

Five-Year Guarantees

Beginning in fall 2020, we will offer new and continuing doctoral students support packages for five years (two years for MFA students). These packages will have a minimum level of support equivalent to that of a standard 50 percent teaching assistantship.

For Fall 2019, only 45% of incoming graduate students had five-year offers. Five years of guaranteed funding provides graduate students with increased predictability and a guaranteed amount of funding.

Rescission of Employee Discipline

Teaching Assistants and Graduate Student Instructors who did not submit their grades by February 2, 2020 received a “Letter of Warning,” the least severe sanction among multiple options for employee discipline for Academic Student Employees. These letters do not preclude future employment, but based on conversations with graduate students and faculty members, we will rescind these letters for any student who submits fall, winter, and spring grades (or all grades for the quarters where they hold a teaching appointment), and fulfills their other contractual obligations. This will allow students to move forward without an employee discipline letter in their UC Santa Cruz employment files.

Joint Senate-Administrative Graduate Education Working Group

At the invitation of the Graduate Council, the Chancellor has asked for a joint Senate-Administrative Graduate Education working group to develop a comprehensive, actionable plan for strengthening graduate education at UC Santa Cruz. The core charge will be to develop a strategic plan for appropriate and sustainable graduate program support.. This group will assess the revenue sources currently used for graduate program support and evaluate the carrying capacity of programs based on experience and prospects for external funding, faculty size, professional and career development. Appropriate levels of support for graduate students, particularly housing support and summer, will be an important consideration for the sustainable growth of grad programs.

Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Graduate Education

It is important to have a broader venue for advancing productive and collaborative conversation about graduate education. This standing group of graduate students, faculty, and administrative representatives will be charged with examining and making recommendations to improve graduate student support throughout graduate school and beyond as graduate students prepare for a range of careers beyond the professoriate.

Slug Support

Slug Support is offering two temporary housing assistance programs to graduate students.These include a program to support gaps in rent (or other housing related costs) for this academic year or summer, and a security deposit assistance program. For both of these programs, students can receive up to $1,000 in financial support. These temporary programs will be offered until May 31st, 2020.

These programs are in addition to Slug Support’s existing year-round emergency housing fund that graduate students have access to for these needs as well. These funds are available to any graduate student who may be in need of this support following an assessment with a Slug Support case manager to determine eligibility and availability. To schedule an appointment with a case manager email


Striking graduate students have had multiple deadlines by which to submit grades and receive the benefits outlined above. The original grade deadline was December 18th; the second deadline to avoid a Letter of Warning was February 2nd, and the final deadline to avoid dismissal from spring appointments was February 21st. At each stage, we have worked to be honest and clear about the outcomes for failing to honor the collective bargaining agreement. Given some clarity issues around the nature of the housing supplement, we have allowed faculty members until February 26th to confirm and submit all withheld grades.

While the unsanctioned nature of the strike and the closed contract for teaching assistants and graduate student instructors has made conversations around additional graduate student support challenging, the outline above reflects UC Santa Cruz’s strong commitment to improving support for graduate students through many mechanisms. This work will continue as we advocate for our students with both the system and the state and work to provide affordable housing on and near our campus.