Report of the Senate Faculty Affairs and Personnel Committee
On Charge S-0110
Healthcare Insurance for Graduate Students

Paul Leath, Co-Chair
Barbara Lee, Co-Chair

December 15, 2001


The Committee was transmitted the following charge:

"Review Rutgers policies regarding provision of healthcare insurance for graduate students who have fellowships or graduate assistantships.  Make recommendations for improving these policies."

The Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs and Personnel met with Harvey Waterman, Associate Dean of the Graduate School-New Brunswick.  Dean Waterman explained that teaching assistants and graduate assistants are University employees.  As employees, they are members of the AAUP bargaining unit, and thus receive the same health benefits that the faculty receive, which for the NJ Plus health plan includes spouse or family coverage at no charge to the TA or GA.  Graduate fellowships are often offered to the most highly qualified graduate student applicants.  Graduate fellows, however, are not University employees.  Because they are students, and not employees, they are eligible only for student health insurance, which is included in the student fee for basic coverage and access to the campus student health care centers and can purchase major medical insurance for hospitalization and certain other healthcare needs, at an annual cost of $305 for the student and approximately $550 for each dependent.

There are approximately 450 students holding fellowships at Rutgers University annually.  The Graduate School, from its own budget, has set up a group health insurance plan and provided health insurance for approximately 30 students who hold “nationally competitive external fellowships.”  This insurance costs approximately $2,000 for the student fellow, $1,500 for the inclusion of a spouse, and another $1,500 for full family coverage.  This coverage is superior to the student health insurance offered by the University, and closer to the coverage that TAs and GAs receive, because it also includes prescription benefits and a smaller deductible than the student plan.  The Graduate School pays the premiums for individual fellows in this small group.   Students holding fellowships that are not “nationally competitive external fellowships” are not provided health insurance beyond what they are eligible to buy as students.  Graduate fellows see this as an inequitable situation, and indeed it is not uncommon for a graduate student to resign a prestigious university fellowship to take on the duties of a TA or GA position just to get the health benefits.

Dean Waterman provided information on the practices of comparable public research universities.  There is no standard practice.  Many universities with which we compete for graduate students, such as the Universities of Washington, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, do provide the same insurance coverage for fellows that they provide for teaching assistants and graduate assistants.  These schools also tend to pay part of the cost of dependents’ health insurance (usually 50 percent).  At other schools (Ivy League universities, Duke, Berkeley, Cornell, Washington University, Texas, and Penn State) the university pays for the equivalent of the student health insurance available to fellows at Rutgers.  And yet some other schools have policies similar to that at Rutgers, i.e.,  fellows pay for their own health insurance.

In order for Rutgers to be able to compete for top graduate students, for whom graduate fellowships have been established, the Committee recommends that the University establish a goal of providing the insurance program currently available for individuals with “nationally competitive external fellowships” to ALL graduate students holding fellowships.  The committee further recommends that these fellows be eligible to purchase group health for coverage in the same group plan for their dependents.  The committee also recommends that the funds for this insurance generally not be deducted from the pool of funds currently used for fellowships, but that new monies be found for this purpose.  Specifically, we recommend that category by category (such as “Diversity Fellows” or certain endowed fellows, or fellows in certain professional schools or disciplines) the funds be identified to expand this coverage until all such fellows are so covered.


In Support of Committee Report and Recommendations

Whereas, attracting and retaining outstanding graduate students is one of the highest priorities of Rutgers University; and

Whereas, graduate fellows are among our best graduate students and receive very prestigious awards; and

Whereas, presently there are inequities in health insurance coverage between holders of fellowships and University teaching assistants and graduate assistants; and

Whereas, other major research universities with which we compete for graduate students are providing these benefits to their fellows and their dependents;

Therefore, Be It Resolved, that the Rutgers University Senate endorses the Report on Healthcare Insurance for Graduate Students, and urges the Administration to implement its Recommendations.

Faculty Affairs and Personnel Committee
Leath, Paul, Rutgers (F), Co-Chair - Executive Committee Liaison
Lee, Barbara, SMLR Dean (A), Co-Chair
Albers, William, Engineering (S)
Boylan, Edward, FASN (F)
Breton, Michael, Assoc. VP for Research & Sponsored Programs (A)
Cohen, Mark, Rutgers (S)
Dennis, Roger, Camden Provost (A) - Administrative Liaison
Deutsch, Stuart, Law-Newark Dean (A)
Duncan, Stewart, GS-NB (S)
Fay, Charles, Professor, Human Resource Management, SMLR (F) (nonsenator)
Griffith, Hurdis, Nursing Dean (A)
Hillman, Bradley, GS-NB (F)
Hirsh, Haym, Rutgers (F) - Executive Committee Liaison
Kressel, Ken, GS-N (F)
Martinez-Fernandez, Luis, FAS-NB (F)
Nagarajan, Anandi, GSE (S)
Panayotatos, Paul, At-Large NB (F)
Puniello, Francoise, Douglass (F)
Samuels, Norman, Newark Provost (A) - Administrative Liaison
Seplaki, Leslie, CFAS (F)
Simmons, Peter, Law-Newark (F)
Theodossiou, Andreas, Rutgers (S)
Zaborszky, Laszlo, Other Units-N (F)