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Amid the ongoing grade and teaching assistant strike on campus over cost of living concerns, the University of California, Santa Cruz, said this week that a $2,500 housing supplement is available to all doctoral students in their first five years of study and to master of fine arts students in their first two years. Previously, the university said the supplement was “needs-based.” That concerned graduate students who worried that the criteria for need were vague, that they wouldn’t qualify for help and that international students would automatically be ruled out. The university also said that it would remove previously administered letters of warning related to the strike from student files after this academic year -- if students resume their duties. Last week’s deadline for turning in undergraduates’ fall grades would be verified on Thursday, Santa Cruz also said. Those who don’t turn in grades from the fall quarter stand to lose spring teaching appointments, but graduate students have threatened a boycott of appointments in return.

Regarding the new aid, there remains a big gap between the $1,412-per-month cost of living adjustment Santa Cruz graduate student employees seek and the $2,500 the university has promised. Striking students say that it is not only difficult to find rental apartments, homes and rooms in Santa Cruz, but that it is one of the most expensive rental markets in the country. Many graduates report spending 60 percent of their pay on rent and believe that the COLA they want would help them spend closer to 30 percent on rent, bringing them out of what’s known as rent or cost burden. Graduate employees at Santa Cruz are unionized in affiliation with the university system’s statewide union under the United Auto Workers. While the statewide union has not authorized the strike, it has urged university administrators to negotiate with graduate workers on several campuses who seek a COLA.