The $350 health fee for students not enrolled in Cornell’s Student Health Plan will be included in eligible students’ financial aid packages for the next academic year, President Elizabeth Garrett said at Thursday’s Student Assembly meeting.
“I am pleased to announce that for the next academic year and thereafter, we will include a $350 student healthcare allowance in the cost of attendance and in financial aid calculations,” Garrett said, attributing the success of the shift largely to student advocacy.
Garrett and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, responded to student concerns in an open-forum question and answer session.
In her first semester on campus, Garrett said she discerned themes in the demands coming from the student body and described administrative efforts, including the addition of the health fee to student aid packages, to address those recurrent concerns.
Shivang Tayal ’16, S.A. international representative at large, said there are a number of international issues that have yet to be resolved. Despite Cornell’s “sizeable international student body,” university resources have not been put toward the needs of this community, with most recent initiatives being “largely student run,” according to Tayal. A central concern is that, unlike other minority groups on campus, the international student community does not have an advocacy center, he said.
Responding to Tayal, Garrett said while international students share many of the same issues as the general student body, it is clear that there are “other factors that are unique to international students,” Garrett said.
In addition, a task force is working to advance “Global Cornell” initiatives and address particular concerns of the international student community, such as housing over break and summer storage, according to Lombardi. In discussing housing, Lombardi also endorsed a move to distinguish program houses from the general pool of North Campus housing to address the distinct needs of program houses’ minority residents.
“We need to understand what is the right housing situation for Cornell today and for Cornell in the future,” he said.
Questions about financial aid were raised throughout the session, weaving into the discussion the challenges facing minority and international students on campus.
Pointing to recent tuition crowdfunding campaigns, S.A. industrial and labor representative Ben Bacharach ’18 asked Garrett and Lombardi about what discussions on financial aid are occurring at the administrative level.
Garrett replied that while looking into these student crowdfunding campaigns, the administration discovered that some of the students are undocumented, and therefore ineligible for financial aid under current University policies. Policies on international student aid — which free up funds only after domestic financial aid packages have been disbursed — are being reviewed, according to Garrett.
Garrett spoke of the challenges of being a need blind institution with limited financial aid funding. Additionally, provost Michael Kotlikoff is looking very hard at financial aid, said Garrett, who further emphasized that the University will continue to be need blind. However, doing so remains difficult.
Although Garrett said the University spends $270 million dollars on financial aid, most of that money comes from the use of unrestricted funds, as the large parts of the endowment are restricted for certain functions. Many of the other student interests that were discussed at the meeting would also rely on these unrestricted funds, she added.
Garrett encouraged student input at multiple levels of University policy creation, pledging to seek student voices as a part of the decision making process.