This past June, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D) and Michael Lee (R) introduced a new bill called the Graduate Savings Act of 2016. The Graduate Savings Act of 2016, which received support from SEIU, has the potential to improve the retirement prospects of hundreds of thousand graduate employees, as well as nearly 100,000 postdoctoral fellows. This new legislation will help put countless over-worked and underpaid academic workers on the path to retiring with dignity.
Many graduate employees forego compensation to conduct important research that brings in billions of dollars in grants to colleges and universities. We deserve to be able to save for the future.
“Most physician-scientist trainees don’t finish their graduate degrees until their early thirties, after which there are 4 to more than 10 years of additional fellowship or postdoctoral training before finally getting a “real job” and a compensatory paycheck,” said our own Colleen McClean, a PhD candidate at Duke University. “Making the choice to dedicate one’s life to research, and take the associated reduced pay, is hard enough without tax disincentives making the process even more difficult.”
Graduate students arrive at graduate school from a multitude of paths and at a variety of life stages. Recognizing that all graduate students desire to plan for retirement, but understanding that some feel more pressure than others to save now, is critical to making the graduate experience work for all students.
Graduate students are not relying on the government alone to address our working conditions. Across the country, graduate students are joining with other higher education workers to build a movement. By uniting with SEIU, we are standing up to demand that colleges and universities prioritize care and respect for their students and workers.