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GSA discusses financial aid, fees for Health/Fitness Building

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 22 - February 29, 1996

Danny Waddill, graduate-student representative to the Board of Visitors, told the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) Thursday evening that proposed increases for fellowships and financial aid for graduate students "did not survive the General Assembly budget process."

"Legislators see graduate students funded by external research. But that is shrinking too. We try to remind people that half of graduate students do not have assistantships."

Waddill reported that GTA's will benefit from the increase in faculty salaries.

Len Peters, vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School, explained that GTA's are part of the salary pool, so they will see increases, and other assistantships will be increased too, if the raises are approved in the final budget.

Waddill reported that recreation fees will go up $22 next year as construction begins on the Health and Fitness Center, and fees will increase more the year after.

John Augenbaugh objected to students paying for a building they will not be here to use. He said university administrators had earlier publicly announced that students wouldn't pay until they could use new facilities.

Waddill pointed out, "People paid for Squires who didn't use it.... You have to start paying for the building while it is being built." He added that the board feels fees are lower at Virginia Tech than elsewhere, "but in the past, services have been lower, too. So it's a philosophical argument."

He said another issue is whether faculty and staff members may use the Heath and Fitness Building, and if so, whether they will have to pay. "The administration is sensitive to student opinion and would be receptive to what we have to say."

Waddill reported that the GSA resolution on the College of Education received a favorable response. "It was a good way to remind the Board of Visitors and the university administration about extended campus programs."

In other business, a slate of officers was nominated for next year: Mike Schroder for president, Augenbaugh for vice president, Rosalyn Swiggett, secretary, and Ed Davis, treasurer. Further nominations will be accepted at the March 28 meeting, when elections will also be held.

The College Student Affairs Group in the College of Education is developing the Graduate Student Survey. They invited graduate students to suggest issues. Jennifer Murro is spokeswoman for the group.

The February meeting was hosted by the College of Engineering. Eugene Brown used the opportunity that hosts are given to make remarks to ask the students why they think there is a downward trend in graduate degree applications. (Len Peters added that enrollments are flat across the country, with the only increase in health sciences.)

Responses included:

* Funding is more competitive, for projects as well as assistantships.

* People are concentrating on their families and quality of life rather than more education.

* Graduate education can narrow your opportunities.

* There are fewer offers because departments don't have the money.

* The animal and poultry sciences department is surveying the students who are not here; that's who to ask.

* Have you looked at the support students are getting? Not so much in terms of money, but in terms of there being anyone who cares whether you finish.

* Professors tell me jobs in academia are down; are we directing graduates elsewhere?

* If you look at news groups on the web, a lot of people are unemployed or under-employed. Of course, maybe they are the only ones who have time to be on the web. But it's scary for people considering a degree.

* Are there studies to link graduate programs to industry needs?

Another student said a thesis is not the only route to a master's degree.

Brown said, "One can revalue the master's degree. We have a master's of engineering that directs people to industry."

When he talked about broadening the scope of the Ph.D., a student asked, "How can you do that when a lot of faculty members are researchers and not in touch with the needs of industry?"

Brown asked that additional comments be sent to mikev or efbrown @vt.edu.