Expanded family-focused benefits for graduate students
Dean Sarah-Jane Leslie has announced that beginning in academic year 2018-19 the Graduate School will be able to significantly expand its family-focused benefits for graduate students with children. Going forward, financial benefits will be available to eligible students regardless of whether a spouse or partner is working in order to offset costs associated with housing and dependent healthcare, as well as childcare costs. Graduate students may receive up to $5,000 per child per year (with a maximum annual grant of $10,000).
Historically Princeton has been a leader in offering family-focused initiatives to graduate student parents. For more than a decade the Graduate School has offered a program called the Student Child Care Assistance Program (SCCAP), which offsets costs associated with childcare up to $5,000 per year per child. The Graduate School has also offered backup childcare care assistance, Carebridge services for families, and enrollment and funding accommodations through the Childbirth and Adoption Accommodation Policy. In the area of healthcare, the Graduate School has offered dependent child healthcare at a rate that is subsidized at 75% of cost.
Nonetheless, Graduate School administrators realized that graduate students with children face unique challenges, and so the Graduate School began investigating ways it could do more. Over the past two years, administrators have worked with the Graduate Student Government (GSG) and the graduate student organization Tigers with Cubs to gather their feedback on specific ways the University might better serve the needs of more graduate student parents. With their input and support the Graduate School developed a proposal for expanded family-focused benefits that was submitted to the Priorities Committee, which makes budget recommendations to the Trustees.
The Priorities Committee endorsed the proposal in its entirety as part of their proposed budget, which was then approved by the Trustees at their recent April meeting. This means that beginning in the fall of 2018, the Graduate School will be able to offer an expanded child assistance program – one that the Graduate School will rename the Graduate Child Assistance Program, or GCAP – that does the following:
- Removes any restrictions pertaining to the work or student status of a partner or spouse;
- Expands use of grant proceeds to including housing costs;
- Expands use of grant proceeds to include the cost for dependent health insurance for children;
- Applies benefits to dependent children under the age of 6 (replacing current language that applies benefits to pre-kindergarten-aged children);
- For single parents, raises the age limit of dependent children the program covers to 12.
Given that many graduate student parents were excluded from the SCCAP program in the past due to program restrictions, the Graduate School expects that the changes to the assistance program will allow the Graduate School to extend program benefits to many more graduate students and in most cases to provide them the maximum grant amount available through the program.
Dean Leslie has announced a goal of continuing to foster an environment where all graduate students can thrive, including graduate students with children. She shares that goal with the GSG. Working with the Graduate Housing Policy Working Group, the GSG recommended a pilot program for this year’s housing draw to provide stability for families with children, and the Graduate School implemented the recommendations. As a result, families with children who currently live in graduate housing received an automatic retention offer for their current apartment. Families with children who currently live off campus were able to enter the room draw and receive priority for their family status. In the year ahead, Dean Leslie and her staff will continue to partner with the GSG, relevant student organizations, and individual students to enhance benefits for graduate students and their dependents.