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Computer science department raises teaching assistant wages

Over 300 TAs receive 10 percent wage boost, head TAs receive 15 percent wage increase

By
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, October 8, 2019

TAs in the CS department received a raise this semester. The department’s UTA budget has been strained in recent years due to the growth of the CS concentration, which became the largest at the University in 2017.

The computer science department increased wages this semester for Undergraduate Teaching Assistants and Head Teaching Assistants by 10 percent and 15 percent respectively.

The wages for UTAs increased from $10.60 to $11.66 per hour while the wages for HTAs increased from $10.86 to $12.50 per hour, said Tom Doeppner, the department’s director of undergraduate studies.

The wage increase comes as the CS department’s UTA budget has been strained by the department’s growth, The Herald previously reported. CS became the most popular concentration at the University in 2017.

Currently, there are around 350 TAs in the department, with a ratio of about eight students per TA in intro courses and 10 students per TA in non-intro courses, Doeppner said. In every course, there is at least one HTA, who is an undergraduate with more experience and is responsible for administrative tasks and managing the course’s other TAs.

Both students and professors interviewed by The Herald said they wished that TA wages could be increased further, but they acknowledged the UTA program’s budget constraints. Doeppner said that the department spends well over $1 million on the UTA program per year. The department sources money from a recently established UTA endowment, the department budget and a portion of revenue from masters students’ tuition.

Though the CS department raised around $10 million for the UTA endowment in recent years, the concentration almost doubled in size by the end of the fundraising campaign, said Interim Chair of the Computer Science Department John Hughes.

“I believe for the quality of work that (TAs) do, they would be justified in receiving a higher increase in wages,” said Nicole Cheng ’21, an HTA who works around 20 hours per week for CSCI 0111: “Computing Foundations: Data” “But generally, I think that the overall sentiment is positive about the wage increase, as most people know that the CS department is strapped for money when it comes to undergraduate TAs. So we’re happy with what we have.”

To help alleviate the UTA program’s budget constraints, TAs are still able — and, for intro courses, often required — to receive up to two course credits in place of wages for their work. With this option, either all TA duties are covered in course credit or, for larger intro courses, the duties are split between credit and wages. In those cases, grading is compensated with hourly wages, while TA hours and class prep are counted toward course credit. Additionally, starting this year, any student on financial aid can TA intro courses entirely for wages, Doeppner said.

The department announced the HTA wage increase last spring and the UTA wage increase a week before this semester started, Doeppner said. Both wage increases went into effect this semester.

“I’m happy that they have increased (TA wages) because it gives us security to be able to pay for groceries or pay for rent,” said Chanel Johnson ’20, a UTA for CSCI 0020: “The Digital World.”

“It also helps with the work and makes you feel like your work is more appreciated.”