Last week, University Provost Philip Hanlon approved the recommendations of a joint committee regarding the childcare subsidies of student parents.
Prior to the approval, only students with spouses working or attending school for 20 or more hours could receive a childcare subsidy. Throughout the year, the Graduate Employees Organization Parents’ Caucus met with University administrators in the hopes of expanding this subsidy.
Now, Graduate Student Instructors and Graduate Student Staff Assistants with a spouse working or attending school for 12 to 19 hours a week can also apply for funds. According to the committee’s recommendations, if a GSI or GSSA’s spouse works or attends school for 12 to 15 hours a week, he or she will be eligible to receive $1,000 per semester for childcare. If the spouse works or attends school for 15 to 19 hours a week, they will be eligible to receive up to $1,250 per semester.
Students whose spouses work or attend school for 20 or more hours can receive between $2,250 and $4,350 each semester, depending on the number of children in their household.
A committee comprised of three members of the GEO Parents’ Caucus and three University administrators made the recommendations. The six-member body had been meeting monthly following last summer’s contract negotiations between GEO and the University before submitting its recommendations to the provost.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the committee accomplished its goal.
“I think everyone is pleased with this recommendation,” Fitzgerald said. “The process worked effectively … working together to find a solution that everyone involved thought would work.”
Fitzgerald added that the committee functioned to provide recommendations rather than hashing out issues between GEO and the University, like was done last summer with GEO’s contract negotiations.
“This wasn’t a negotiation process,” Fitzgerald said. “This was not an ‘us versus them.’ ”
Per the agreement, $150,000 will be used over the course of the next two years to fulfill the recommendations. Specifically, $37,500 will be allocated to each of the respective fall and winter semesters. The amount is fixed and more funds will not be made available if the subsidies requested exceed the funds available.
Rackham student Emily Howard, the GEO communications co-chair, said she was pleased to see more students become eligible for the subsidy.
“While we weren’t able to just eliminate that work requirement entirely … hopefully (the new agreement) will catch a lot of people who have fallen through the cracks,” Howard said.
The current plan covers GSIs and GSSAs, though it does not include Graduate Student Research Assistants. Though the union does not formally bargain on behalf of GSRAs, University administrators often extend benefits negotiated in the GEO contract to GSRAs.
Howard said GSRAs are often excluded from agreements between GEO and the University, but she hopes that they will eventually have the same access to the childcare subsidy as other graduate students.
“It’s my hope that, as with many things in the past, this will be extended to GSRA’s,” Howard said.
Howard said the next most important issue for GEO to tackle is to spread awareness about the newly available childcare subsidies.
Correction Appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the relationship between GEO and GSRAs.