Prior to coming to the table on Thursday, CGE and OSU agreed to discuss the Ecampus tuition waiver for graduate employees (Letter of Agreement—Tuition Remission in the 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement). The waiver has been provided to Grad Employees for the past two years through two separate yearlong contractual agreements referred to as pilot programs. On Thursday, each team was prepared to discuss the material but neither team knew the other team’s exact interests.
CGE was prepared to engage in the discussion in a formal interest-based fashion. CGE felt structuring the conversation in this manner would set a good example for the remaining bargaining sessions and keep discussions moving forward. The discussions progressed with each team sharing their issues with the current agreement, followed by their interests, and then each team discussed a few possible solutions.
To start, OSU provided basic information about the structure of Ecampus and the amount of Ecampus graduate student tuition remissions previously made. While not clearly stating them as “issues” OSU began to express their issues with the current structure and their concerns with the long-term economics and the behavior consequences of making changes. The discussion continued as CGE began expressing their issues and used an easel to clearly organize both teams’ thoughts. The following issues were expressed as CGE’s issues with the current Ecampus remission structure and were based on team members’ personal experiences and the results of the bargaining survey.
- Uncertainty: Because the pilot program has not been made permanent, grad employees have not been able to fully commit to using Ecampus courses in their programs of study, faculty have not been able to consistently offer graduate Ecampus classes, classes have been canceled because of the mistaken assumption that grads had to pay, and prospective graduates cannot be recruited based on Ecampus course offerings.
- Cost-prohibitive: Even with the tuition waiver, the $80.00/credit hour course fees remain cost prohibitive for many graduate employees.
- Unacceptable discouragement: Many departments informally discourage grad employees from taking Ecampus courses because of the financial cost to the department.
After using the easel to clearly list both teams’ issues, the discussion shifted to focus on interests. Each team shared interests in making the Ecampus tuition waiver for graduate employees permanent. However, to complement CGE’s interest in improving affordability (by waiving the $80/credit hour fees), OSU stated their interest is managing costs. Following a long caucus, OSU also came back to the table to express their interests in maintaining sufficient academic progress and the role of committees in deciding appropriate classes. Much discussion was made about programs of study and OSU gave the impression that they may be interested in limiting Ecampus tuition remissions to only courses that complement grad employee’s program of studies.
Discussions toward the end of the bargaining session focused on solutions to meet the interests of both groups. Both OSU and CGE proposed multiple ideas, but there was not enough time to discuss the feasibility or consequences of any of the solutions. CGE is particularly interested in restructuring the way the Ecampus tuition remissions are paid for so that individual departments don’t bear the cost of the waivers for their students. A new funding structure may remove the incentive faculty currently have to discourage or forbid grad employees from utilizing the Ecampus tuition waiver.
The upcoming bargaining session will recommence with a further discussion on Ecampus tuition waivers for graduate employees, with these interests in mind. Join us this Thursday, 3/27, 12-2pm for coffee and more on the Ecampus tuition waiver!