November 29, 2001

C.U. Provides Health Insurance for Grads

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The University’s new policy of providing health insurance for the majority of graduate students has gone smoothly since its inception over three months ago.

Though the decision to cover the cost of health insurance for fully funded graduate students — who receive full tuition and a stipend — was made in Oct. 2000, the plan began just before the start of this semester.

Ever since a decision made by the board of trustees in 1974, the University has required all undergraduate students to purchase the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) unless they subscribe to their own insurance plan that meets University requirements. Beginning this year, the SHIP is mandatory for all graduate students as well.

The University now covers the full premium of the SHIP for graduate students who are fully funded. Graduate students who are not fully funded must buy SHIP unless their insurance meets University requirements.

In the latter case, the graduate school pays for the cost of the SHIP, according to Sharon Dittman, associate director of Gannett Health Center. This policy allows providing the SHIP for fully-funded students to remain non-taxable.

The SHIP, which is the same for undergraduate and graduate students, currently costs $955 per student per year. When the policy to provide SHIP for some graduate students was approved, the estimated expense was approximately $3 million to cover the 3,150 eligible graduate students.

The actual cost to the University, as well as the number of students whose premiums are covered by the University, will be unavailable until mid-December, according to Sarah Hale, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid in the graduate school.

“We can’t really make a thorough assessment [on the success of this new policy] until we’ve finished the first-year experience,” Dittman said.

However, despite a decrease in the size of Cornell’s endowment, the University will continue to pay for the insurance of fully-funded graduate students next year, though the actual SHIP may change, Dittman noted.

One reason behind the decision to pay for the SHIP of some students is the desire to attract the highest caliber of graduate students to Cornell, according to the Gannett Website.

“I [believe] the policy has made Cornell more appealing to some graduate students,” said Patrick Carr grad, president of the Graduate and Professional Student assembly. “It’s gotten to the point where some competing schools offer similar benefits, so this levels the playing field.”

Archived article by Peter Lin