The University of South Carolina will cover 100% of graduate students' health insurance after the Graduate Student Association (GSA) of USC pushed for full funding.
The insurance subsidy was confirmed this summer semester and was implemented in the fall 2021 semester. The subsidy will be available for all full-time doctoral students and graduate student assistants. Graduate students make up 22% of USC’s population.
Previously, USC did not subsidize any health insurance. According to Maggie Carson, former president of GSA and current Graduate Council representative, two years ago the GSA was able to get around 40% of health insurance subsidized. This percentage depended on which department the student was in and if they were an international student.
GSA, which represents the graduate student population when communicating with USC, pushed for many years to get graduate student health insurance to be covered, according to Carson.
The GSA worked with former Dean of the Graduate school Cheryl Addy and Graduate School Dean Tracey Weldon through official meetings and issuing formal statements, according to Carson. Former Provost William Tate also met with the GSA about the topic. It also had to figure out how to make the funding possible.
“Where was the money going to come from and where were those resources? So my stance on that is, why are you continuing to bring in students when you can't provide for them to live in a good way. Don't make our lives harder than they need to be just so we can do your work,” Carson said.
Carson said she expected the process to take longer — potentially two or three more years.
"It was a difficult year when meeting with these different administrators because of COVID," Carson said. "I think all four of these administrators work with students very well. They always listened."
Most graduate students work for the university in some way whether it is as a professor, teaching assistant or researcher. USC classifies them as temporary workers, according to Carson.
“It definitely is a very attractive thing that can help bring in students. And I think it's definitely very important,” Pravin Bosco, a current graduate chemical engineering student said.
Insurance for a single person averages $100 a month in the United States and can vary depending on a variety of factors. This is on top of other costs associated with living in a city, such as housing, food and transportation.
“Having this fully subsidized insurance definitely goes a long way, in helping, in terms of the finance for the family, and it can definitely save up a lot of money,” Bosco said.
A concern for Sowmya Raghu, current president of the GSA, is how the subsidy will help graduate students enrolled in a different healthcare plan.
“Students who are already on their parents’ insurance and the younger students who are already enrolled in another plan — how can this subsidy help them or support them? So, these are the ways that we can look into in the future and see how we can support and be inclusive of every care and cater to most of the graduate student population as a whole," Raghu said.
GSA continues to work with USC to improve the currently provided services and the overall school experience for graduate students. This involves increasing resources and encouraging community involvement and knowledge of graduate students. Some of these resources and services include informing graduate students about athletic ticketing services or mental health services specific to graduate students' needs, according to Carson.
“We still want to know. We have those resources, and we're supportive. And we're not just temporary employees, as we're classified for the university," Carson said.