Purdue graduate students voice concerns over pay changes

In January, Purdue switched it's graduate student pay cycle from monthly to biweekly. This change had an unexpected impact on student's summer paychecks.

Posted: Jul 11, 2019 5:18 PM
Updated: Jul 11, 2019 6:08 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Graduate students at Purdue are not happy about changes in their pay that are impacting them this summer. In January, Purdue switched it's graduate student pay cycle from monthly to biweekly.

The graduate students are holding a community discussion event to voice their concerns. It will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church in West Lafayette at 9 a.m. on July 21st. All are welcomed to attend to talk and learn more about graduate student concerns.

"In switching this, the annual income was the same but the way the funds would be distributed changed," said Aashna Aggarwal, who is a PhD student studying counseling psychology.

The distribution took money from their summer pay checks and added it to the first five months of the year. Purdue called this transition pay. This was to make those first pay checks look more like their bi-weekly amounts. But during the summer months, year-round graduate students are getting significantly smaller pay checks.

The change has impacted Aggarwal this summer, along with many of her fellow grad students.

"People struggling to pay rent and basic bills to not having money to go get groceries," she said. "All the way to people not being able pay for wedding bills or paying for a random surgery that came up."

Aggarwal is an international student, so she only has the option of getting a second job on campus. She said she once was turned town for a job because they said she was over qualified. There's another barrier in her way of making additional money.

"My program says I cannot seek outside employment without faculty permission," she said. "In many cases, faculty will not give you that permission because they want you to focus on your academics."

"It's unacceptable," said PhD student Lauren Murfree. She is going into her second year in the Department of Health and Kinesiology. Both she and Aggarwal agree that communication throughout this process has been poor.

"Emails did go out in the fall semester, but they were very vague and there was no indication that this anything besides simply changing pay periods," said Murfree.

An email sent out in November of last year mentions the transition pay, but does not mention how it will impact the summer months.
Another email sent in May provides a Transition Pay Template. The tool allows students to input their salary and see what each paycheck would look like. However, the table doesn't calculate entries for the summer months.

Murfree estimates that nearly 2,500 grad students have the potential to be impacted by this change. They said there were only two people listed in the emails for questions or concerns.

"If you have that many people reaching out to you, you can only imagine how long the wait times are," said Murfree. "That kind of ratio is never appropriate in and employer-employee relationship."

They said they feel de-valued by the university throughout this change and said there was no way for them to give feedback. They said graduate students should have a seat at the table when changes are being made to their benefits and pay.

"This kind of dictation down to graduate employees about how things are going to go is not acceptable, never has been acceptable," she said.

A spokesperson for the university said graduate students will be fully transitioned to biweekly pay when they get their July paycheck. An email from Dean of the Graduate School Linda Mason said in an email that was sent on June 24th: "Beginning with the first full pay period of July (July 8-21), which is paid July 31, all graduate students will be fully transitioned to biweekly pay with 26 equal payments for those on fiscal year contracts and 19.5 equal payments for those on academic year contracts."

The spokesperson said informational and budgeting seminars were held to assist the graduate students with this transition to receiving paychecks more frequently. A link for Frequently Asked Questions can be found here.

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