Ending Tuition Discrimination at the University of California

Non-Resident Supplemental Tuition (NRST) is an unfair burden on non-resident student workers, especially international scholars who, despite living in California, do not qualify for residency. Non-residents are currently charged as much as $15,000 more in tuition than California residents, causing rushed time-to-degree and difficulty obtaining on-campus research and teaching employment.

As the union that represents Academic Student Employees at UC, UAW 2865 is  fighting back against the practice of charging people more based solely on the country of their birth. NRST is a discriminatory financial mechanism that penalizes hard working, low-income immigrants, and it should end.


Non-Resident Student Tuition prohibits talented, low-income students from across the globe from attending and working at UC. In this age of income inequality, actively gentrifying acceptances to UC is unacceptable.


NRST is antithetical to UC’s “central pervasive mission of discovering and advancing knowledge.” Influxes of global talent are what has made UC the envy of the world. We will not continue to thrive if we stop welcoming diverse talents from all socioeconomic backgrounds. It also diminishes UC’s credibility as an institution that claims to value diversity and welcome all.


NRST negatively impacts California’s economic and job creation prospects, and is a surefire way to close off talent to UC and California’s economy as a whole. We are strong because we welcome immigrants — not because we punish them financially.

For these reasons and more, it is past time to put an end to tuition discrimination at UC. To get involved with this effort, please email (organize@uaw2865.com).

Student Worker Stories

“I am a graduate student instructor in Political Science at UC Berkeley. While I am fortunate enough to be in a department that pays for my NRST, it comes with conditions that leave me in a more vulnerable position than my co-workers. I am only allowed to teach courses within my department as a condition for them to pay for my NRST; I have to defend my prospectus within the first three years of my program and then file my dissertation within three years after that if I want to avoid paying NRST from my own pockets. These conditions have severely limited my choices, forced me to graduate on a tighter timeline, and leave me with little room to work with if emergencies such as the current pandemic arise. GSIs should not be made to work on different conditions simply because of the difference in their national origins–NRST has to go.”- Kai Yui Samuel Chan, UC Berkeley

“I am a graduate student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at UC Los Angeles, and I am in favor of abolishing the NRST. This extra fee is unavoidable to international students under a student VISA and comes as a penalty with extra requirements that just adds to the stress and workload of graduate education. Incentives to local registration should not come as penalties to those that were selected by the university to be here. As international graduate students we provide specialized labor to advance the research that UCLA is so proud of and pass that knowledge to undergraduate students. This differential treatment in the form of extra charges is plainly discriminatory.” – Rachel Turba, UCLA

“I am an international student from México in the Political Science Department at UC Riverside. In my Department international students are pressed into finishing the PhD in 5 years, where local students have more than 6 years to finish. After the 5 years we have to pay NRST, doubling the tuition fee for us. This policy is not only unfair but also negative for our performance as students, TAs and to achieve a high-quality research. Moreover, COVID-19 has negatively affected our research and work for a year, so it is only fair to extend the NRST-waiver for a year. I got COVID-19 myself; it was a serious case and I developed pneumonia, from which I’m still recovering. The stress that we have as international graduate students is already high, and the COVID-19 pandemic has increased it causing struggles in our health (both physical and mental), if you add the economic pressure of the NRST this is even worse. UC should care for their graduate students, whose work sustains the university.” – Fernando David Márquez, UC Riverside

“I’m a PhD candidate and graduate instructor in the Department of History at UCLA. In my program, the current average completion time is 7 years. Yet, international students are forced out within six years, unless they can come up with an additional $5,000 per quarter. Why is it that our colleagues who hold US citizenship are allowed to complete their dissertation in a timely manner, but we aren’t? Despite rushing to get the work done in a lesser amount of time, several friends of mine have found themselves in impossible situations having to pay $15,000 to be allowed to stay one additional year and do the research and teaching they were hired to do in the first place! Were it not for the extended waiver we won to account for COVID-19, I myself would have faced this situation next year. I have no idea how I would have paid. NRST must be abolished.”— Madina Thiam, UCLA

“I am a second year PhD student in the department of Architecture at UC Berkeley, where I also completed my MS degree in 2019. As a master and international student, finding a job within my department was nearly impossible. It was only during the last semester of my program that I was finally offered a 50% appointment in a different department which would apparently cover my tuition expenses. However, as an international student, despite having already paid over $45,000 in tuition, I still had to pay over $7,500 to remain enrolled. More recently, as a PhD student, my department has offered to pay my NRST for the first two years of my program. However, I am still afraid that the previous situation might repeat in the future. As the pandemic hit, NRST has been waived for PhD students who are candidates thanks to the work of our Union, but for those of us who are in the process of preparing for our exams, we have no choice but to stick to the normative time of completion —in spite of the circumstances— if we can’t afford $7,500 extra per semester. This situation is clearly unfair for both master and PhD students and it should be stopped.” — Tania Osorio Harp, UC Berkeley

“I am a sixth year PhD candidate in the Department of Architecture at UC Berkeley and plan to file my dissertation this academic year. During my time at Cal, I worked as a graduate student instructor in the History of Art, Landscape Architecture and Architecture Departments and as a graduate student researcher at the Center for Race and Gender. The Non Resident Supplemental Tuition or NRST ($7,500 per term or upto $15,000 per year) is a financial penalty beyond Year 6 that disproportionately targets international students and poses economic burdens on already precarious noncitizen student workers. The UC Berkeley Graduate Division and Graduate Council approved a one-year increase in normative time for 2020-21. However, adjustments for the 2021-2022 academic year remain unannounced. The looming threat of NRST causes significant financial and psychological stress which is compounded by current events including the global COVID-19 pandemic, closed international borders, xenophobic immigration policies and political, racial and climactic upheaval. My classmates, many of whom are citizens and permanent residents, do not face similar financial consequences or penalties. NRST is an overtly discriminatory policy toward noncitizen students that must be dismantled if we are to take seriously the UC’s stated commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.” – Desiree Valadares, UC Berkeley

“I’m a 3rd-year Ph.D. candidate in Chemical & Environmental Engineering at UCR and am an international student from Thailand. Due to NRST, many international doctoral students who have their research and academic progress disrupted are being penalized through no fault of their own! I am organizing a petition campaign which has gathered over 200+ signatures from grad students at UCR to demand that the university waive NRST and extend the normative time to graduate for a period of at least one-year to all international doctoral students. However, I believe we should go even further and call on the UC to put an end to this discriminatory fee.” – Somchate Wasantwisut (Pao), UC Riverside

“I’m a third graduate student in the physics and Astronomy department at UCRiverside. The pandemic has hampered so many areas of research for graduate students, so as many of our domestic cohorts, we should have the right to extend our program to get the research done with the right quality.” – Mahdi Qezlou, UC Riverside

“When I came to UCSC, international students in my department were expected to advance to candidacy in two years – if not, the department would not cover Non-Resident Student Tuition (NRST). Coming into the course without a Masters degree, I found myself woefully underprepared after two years to qualify. I was unable to take my qualifying exam in two years, and forced to pay a quarter’s NRST out of pocket. On top of the unrelenting costs of living and rent in Santa Cruz, this came close to forcing me to leave the program (and, consequently, the country).

International student-workers cannot be expected to produce quality research in such a short time, with the threat hanging over them of having to leave. Legally unable to work side-gigs outside the university, we cannot bear the burden of extra tuition on top of our rent, food, utilities, campus fees … The UC must (pending the full abolition of NRST) extend coverage of NRST through the remainder of the year, to all pre- and post-ATC graduate students at all UC campuses.” – Tony Boardman, UC Santa Cruz

“I am a Ph.D. candidate in History at UCLA, and I have also worked as a TA.  NRST forces international students to pay an additional $15,000 per year for the same education non-international students receive.  It is a highly discriminatory policy, plain and simple.  As a result of the well-organized campaign led by our union, UAW 2865, the administration agreed to implement an NRST waiver under the current COVID-19 pandemic which has both revealed and exacerbated existing inequalities between international students and our colleagues with US citizenship.  It is a milestone, but there is still work to be done: we need to expand similar waivers to all UC campuses and ultimately eliminate such a discriminatory policy altogether.” – Masayoshi Yamada, UCLA

“I am a third-year PhD student at UCR Astronomy. NRST causes an unnecessary burden for international students. During the time of the pandemic, we should advocate the university to treat domestic and international students equally.” – Ming-Feng, UC Riverside

“I am an international grad worker at UCSC in the third year of my studies. The offer I received to join my program included funding for NRST: for the first three years, a fellowship pays it; for the last three, it is waived. The waiver for the second half depends on passing my qualifying exams within the first three years and advancing to candidacy. So far so good.

When the pandemic hit in my second year and wiped out any reasonable prospect of academic progress for more than six months as I was forced to change my living situation, then relocate. Meanwhile I lost access to campus resources, such as the library. This is, of course, to say nothing of the emotional toll of being caught away from my family, who have endured a very long and deep lockdown, with all the employment and emotional insecurity that goes with that. 

I was pleased to hear, therefore, my campus announce an extension of normative time and an extension of NRST waivers. However, on closer inspection, it turned out that this only applied to international grads who had already qualified. While the UC seems to have recognised a MAJOR disruption to academic progress taking the form of a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, pre-QE or pre-ATC international grads have not received an inch of latitude. The extension to normative time is meaningless if I am therefore on the hook for NRST. I would lose my housing and go hungry if I tried to pay it, not that I can raise that much money in the first place.

So while I am extremely stressed and struggling to catch up on my work to meet a strict QE deadline — meanwhile living through an unprecedented crisis, burdened by increasing utility and internet costs, and without access to my library — I can only assume that the UC has not extended my normative time because you all don’t want to pay the NRST that you charge me. Waiving it is one thing, paying for it, it seems, is quite another.

Get a grip and extend normative time for everyone, even if it costs you some money. While you are at it, get rid of grad NRST altogether.” – Jack Davies, UC Santa Cruz

“I am a third year Ph.D. student in Geography at UC Berkeley. NRST causes not only a financial but also a mental burden on students. Because of the requirement to pay off NRST, I have to GSI for more semesters to earn the same income than my domestic peers have to. Even worse, I have to reschedule my qualifying exam to the end of Fall 2021, which I could have passed in Summer 2021 had I been exempted from NRST and unneeded GSI duty. I struggled to pay off NRST by GSI-ing sections that I shouldn’t have GSI had NRST were canceled in the past two years. I can focus on my learning and generate scholarships that stimulate student’s learning in a much better way. Instead, financially strained and intellectually fresh graduate students like me were deprived of time to consolidate our knowledge. We were forced to educate undergraduate students by exploiting ourselves, cutting time for our learning and research while squeezing time to prepare notes for undergraduate students. Making graduate students as cheap labor to provide undergraduate education has created a lose-lose situation. While Graduate students had to delay our research progress and learning, undergraduate students failed to receive the high-quality education they deserved. Financially burdened GSIs won’t provide the best education to our undergraduate students. Stress would make GSI to minimize our time invested in class preparation and weaken our sense of security to focus on our work. In the long run, both the research quality and the experience of undergraduate education will inevitably deteriorate, hence shaking the foundation of UC Berkeley as an education institution. Simply put, NRST is an unfair tax levied on international students that discriminates against their foreign status and brings down the quality of undergraduate education at Berkeley. Graduate students who are overwhelmed by NRST struggle to advance our research, make ends meet, and support undergraduate students in ways UC Berkeley has purportedly promised. NRST should be gone right away.” – Alex Chow, UC Berkeley