The Student Debt Crisis

More than 45 million student loan borrowers owe student debt, a result of decades of disinvestment in public higher education that has shifted costs onto students and their families while leaving colleges and universities underfunded.

navient student debt graphic

Collectively, student debt is over $1.5 trillion, and this debt surpasses all types of household debt other than mortgages. Unlike holders of other types of consumer debt, who have experienced lower levels of delinquency and default since the Great Recession, student loan borrowers remain in distress.

Nearly 1 in 4 federal borrowers are in default or struggling to stay current on their loans. When they fall behind on their payments, the consequences are dire: negative credit reports, wage garnishment and diminished options to cure defaulted loans.

Consumer credit reports—which are the keys to employment, housing and access to credit, and consequently to economic stability itself—are tarnished. This is why the AFT has launched a student debt clinic program to help our members. But we know that helping each other manage student debt is not enough; we need to join together and fight to change the terms of the debate about student debt.

Student Debt Survey

text screenshotAFT is currently surveying our members about their experiences with student debt. If you’ve gotten a text message like this one, that’s from us! To share your experience, take our survey (link is external).

Tentative Agreement – Additional FAQ

Our union came to a tentative agreement with Rutgers management on May 29, 2019.  Since then we held a series of informational meetings on every campus.  Here are some of the most common questions and answers discussed at the meetings.

How will I receive my raises?
Our new Agreement provides for a raise of 3% to the base salary of everyone in the URA bargaining unit on the date we vote to ratify.  (Planned for Thursday, 6/13).  This is the raise for Year 1 of the Contract, FY 18–19.  Another raise of 3% of the new base salary will come on July 1, 2019.  That is our raise for Year 2 of the contract, FY 19–20. In effect, our salaries will increase a bit more than 6% from what we are currently earning.

Will we get “retro” pay for the time since the last contract expired?
If you have been working in a URA bargaining unit job since July 1, 2018, your 3% raise will be paid retroactively to that date.  If you came into the URA bargaining unit since that date, your retroactive raise will go back to the date you started in that job. Retroactive pay will come in a single paycheck, in a single lump.  You must remain on payroll, in a URA job, until the date of the retroactive payment, in order to receive the payment

Example Calculation–full year:

Original salary on
July 1, 2018
New salary effective
July 1, 2018

(Retro pay amount)

New Salary effective
July 1, 2019
New Salary effective
July 1, 2020
New Salary
July 1, 2021
$50,000 $50,000 + 3%


$1,500 $51,500 + 3%


$53,045 + 3%


$54,636 + 2.5%
Total % - 3% - 6.09% 9.27% 12%


Prorated Example–calculation for hire date after July 1, 2018:

Original salary on Sept. 1, 2018 New salary effective
Sept. 1, 2018
Difference Number of work days in the fiscal year Amount of raise per day Prorated # of work days Prorated retro pay amount
$50,000 $50,000 + 3%


$1,500 260 $1,500 / 260


215 $5.7692 x 215


What’s new with in-grade adjustments and job reclassifications?
We revised the criteria for what qualifies for an in-grade adjustment (Article 39-Salary Adjustments).  We also updated some of the procedures surrounding the reclassification process (Article 35-Reclassification).  We will continue to hold member-only workshops about how to best prepare for and utilize these options.

What has changed about FMLA and NJFLA use?
FMLA and NJFLA are entitlement programs that protect your job while you are away.  Our new contract has not modified these entitlements, but we did negotiate terms that will now apply if/when you choose to initiate these programs:

  1. Under our previous contract, we could use 15 days of our own accrued sick leave to provide care for our family members. We can now also use up to 60 sick days for family care AND child bonding during an FMLA or NJFLA leave of absence.
  2. When you wish to utilize FMLA or NJFLA, your sick days will automatically be used simultaneously with each day of your FMLA or NJFLA leave.
  3. We are NOT required to initiate FMLA or NJFLA protection to use our accrued sick time for our own medical condition, or for the first 15 days of caring for family.

What is new about telecommuting?
We previously had no written procedures in our contract for telecommuting. As a result, there were inconsistencies across the university about who could telecommute and how it was administered and approved.  Some managers made unofficial arrangements, and some said they could not grant telecommuting until the union contract allowed it.  Our new Agreement essentially provides the same policy for URA members who wish to telecommute as for non-union staff.  Like the University policy, the new contract article will apply only to FLSA “Exempt” titles.

Local 1766