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Dental plan among benefits enhancements for graduate assistants
Dental plan among benefits enhancements for graduate assistantsMarch 27, 2003Mark Owczarskimaowczar@syr.edu
As part of an ongoing effort to improve the graduate student experience, Syracuse University will implement a series of benefits enhancements over the coming academic year for graduate assistants (GAs), including teaching assistants and research assistants.
Among the enhancements will be a new dental benefit plan that will become available Jan. 1, 2004. When the new dental benefit plan goes into effect, GAs will be able to purchase basic preventative coverage. Also, the University has approved a three-percent increase of the GA academic year base stipend, effective at the start of the 2003-04 academic year.
Enhanced benefits for GAs are among the actions called for by Vice Chancellor and Provost Deborah A. Freund in the University’s Academic Plan, which was announced in April 2001. Since then, Freund has been working with leaders in the Graduate School and other academic units to address key issues effecting graduate education. SU has approximately 1,400 GAs, teaching assistants and research assistants each academic year.
“Because graduate assistants are important in the life of the University, it is essential we improve the overall level of graduate financial assistance,” says Freund. “Through this series of benefits enhancements, I think we will make a positive impact on the quality of life for these students.”
“I believe graduate assistants will be pleased with the enhancements,” says John Mercer, dean of the Graduate School. “Input from graduate students has been an essential part of the process. The leadership of the Graduate Students Organization (GSO) and others have helped shape these changes, and we will continue to work with them as we seek further improvements to the graduate experience.”
The University has approved a policy stating that, beginning this Fall, eligibility for medical benefits provided to GAs will require that assistantship appointments be at least for 10 hours per week. Current students falling outside this policy will be “grandfathered” under the existing eligibility guidelines as long as they continue in their current appointment.
Additional benefits enhancements include:
- Base Stipends: The base stipend for a full time GA will be increased to $8,870 for the 2003-04 academic year. The increase encompasses teaching and research assistants (that is, those working an average of 20 hours per week over the academic year appointment). All GAs must receive at least the base stipend. These stipends vary by school or college, and in some cases by academic units within schools and colleges. They are prorated for appointments of less than the average of 20 hours per week.
- Parking Rates: A new parking rate schedule for graduate, teaching and research assistants will go into effect beginning August 2003. The new rate schedule will reduce the cost of parking permits for GAs from the current student level rates over four years.
- Recreation Services Fees: Effective on April 1, 2003, GAs holding a faculty/staff ID card with the graduate designation will receive standard student access to Recreation Services programs rather than pay the faculty/staff fees.
- Childcare Support Services: A resource agency has been identified to provide specific written information for eligible GAs about locating local childcare resources. The information will include a description of services, licensing status, hours, staffing, types of care, environment and accreditation for each listed child care provider. The agency will also provide follow-up services to ensure adequate care has been located.
In addition to a minimum base stipend, all current GAs receive a tuition scholarship of 24 credit hours for each full academic year appointment. They are also eligible to participate in a health insurance plan and may select from the current offering of three health insurance options for coverage for themselves and eligible dependents.
GAs also receive a remitted tuition benefit; three credit hours per semester are provided for a spouse or same-sex partner during the appointment period. In addition, they are paid in full for those days when classes are not in session but the University is open, including the major break periods in the academic year. On such days, GAs can take vacation days as agreed upon and in advance by the GAs and their supervisors.
GAs also receive a ten percent discount at the Syracuse University Bookstore.