KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Graduate student workers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville are set to receive a long-awaited increase in the amount of money in their stipend.

Graduate student workers and the United Campus Workers were feeling celebratory after officially getting a raise.

“This is an increase in stipends up to an amount that should have happened really years ago,” graduate worker Ryan Ackett said. “We are almost where we want to be and we want to celebrate this victory. We want to say this stipend increase will change lives.”

Ackett said that the stipend increase will allow them to find affordable places to live.

“The biggest things were rent, compounded by low stipends,” Caleb Gore said. “We started with survey then petition that we sent around to every grad student we could find and we just went from there. It just kept picking up steam.”

The petition garnered more than 1,000 signatures in a matter of weeks. These students know that there is more that needs to be done.

“Really ramp up our campaign for family medical leave for graduate students,” Gore said. “Currently, we don’t have paid family or medical leave you know if someone wants to start a family they don’t have the means to do so.”

Those stipends for workers contracted for 9 months rose 35% and for those on 12 month contracts it rose 44%.

Those stipends had been around $14,000 for the year. Students are now getting between $20,000 and $26,000 for the 9 and 12 month contracts.

“We are going to keep fighting for workers at the University of Tennessee to make this university the best place it can be,” Ackett said.