Graduate students to have healthcare subsidies

Tech has announced that it will be providing $100 a semester to help cover health insurance costs for graduate research and teaching assistants (GRA and GTA respectively) for the fall and spring semesters of the 2009-2010 academic year.

Only graduate students that have Tech’s health insurance policy (under the insurance company Pearce & Pearce Inc.) as their primary health insurance provider will obtain the subsidies while those with health insurance from other companies will not receive any money. The Tech administration is still deliberating on whether the subsidies will extend into future semesters.

Annual health care costs for graduate students have been steadily climbing at a linear rate the past few years, from $830 in 2006 to $1,003 in 2009. The subsidy is an attempt to remedy these ongoing increases in living costs faced by graduate students.

“I think this is a very good thing providing this health subsidy… Graduate students get salaries every month for the work they do here at Georgia Tech. However, they are required to have health insurance… A lot of times they have to pay for it out of [their own] pockets. With increased tuition, the increased cost of living in Atlanta, [and] the mandatory student fee, all of these increases and costs to graduate students have made it very hard on graduate students to work for Georgia Tech as research and teaching assistants. In order for Georgia Tech to attract the best candidates for graduate school, they need to offer something that is equivalent to what other universities and our peer institutes offer,” said graduate student body president Linda Harley.

“The majority of our peer institutes pay half if not more than half of the teaching and research assistant’s health insurance benefits. So in that front, Georgia Tech has been behind the curve for a very long time and only now is becoming more in line with what our peer institutes are doing.”

Such an example would be John Hopkins paying 100% of the health care costs of its graduate research students.

With the rash of impending budget cuts, it might seem surprising that Tech is increasing its spending.

“The funds used the supplement the cost of health insurance for GRAs and GTAs were obtained from the Georgia Tech Foundation. There were no state funds used. It is state funds that are subject to the current cuts,” said, Vice Provost for graduate and undergraduate studies Ray Vito.

“It’s not money that is going to have any noticeable effects, certainly not for [non graduate] students at Georgia Tech. It was a long hard decision because there certainly are fewer resources this year but nothing critical is not going to get done because of these subsidies,” Vito said.

Vito also elaborated on long-term plans that will help reduce costs for graduate students even further.

“The plan would be eventually to build some of these [health insurance] costs into grants and contracts for GRA’s, but that will take several years to happen. It is a legitimate cost of hiring a graduate student [since] the health insurance has to be paid for, so it seems to me if the student is supported on a grant then the grant at some point should be helping the students pay for their health insurance.”