GSC calls for housing rate updates, explores healthcare accessibility

March 9, 2023, 12:45 a.m.

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) called on the University at their Tuesday meeting to provide information regarding the pricing of graduate housing amidst increases in housing rates. Members of the GSC also heard an undergraduate presenter about healthcare accessibility on campus and received updates from Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) about the return of the Teaching Kitchen.

Housing and healthcare 

Both graduate and undergraduate attendees at the GSC meeting discussed issues of pricing and affordability surrounding housing and healthcare for students on campus.

Graduate students that live on campus are charged a rate to live in graduate-specific housing. According to R&DE, graduate housing charges are meant to be lower than local area rents and include amenities such as laundry, water, heat, electricity, garbage and sewer.

Lawrence Berg, a fourth-year chemistry Ph.D. student and member of the GSC, asked when announcements regarding the graduate housing rate will be made. “We still have not seen the new housing rate updates for this upcoming year, though … Provost Drell was able to cite an approximate 4% increase while [giving a] presentation to the Faculty Senate,” Berg said.

Imogen Hinds, Assistant Vice Provost for R&DE Student Housing Operations and Stanford Conferences, responded to Berg, saying, “We’re planning on having the rates like we had last year and previous years for all the different areas when the lottery opens.”

Incorporating an undergraduate perspective at the GSC meeting, Nicolas Garcia ’23, the senior class president, spoke about his experiences with Stanford’s student health insurance system, Cardinal Care.

In his presentation, Garcia noted that, for the 2022-23 academic year, the annual premium for Cardinal Care was about $6,768, a 9.3% premium increase from the previous year. He compared this increase to California’s average premium increase of 6%.

Garcia shared his own experience receiving treatment through Stanford’s healthcare system. He said that after receiving a concussion from playing rugby, he was taken to the emergency room where a doctor referred him to a neurologist due to the risk of a brain hemorrhage. From there, Garcia said that it took almost three weeks before he was able to see a neurologist, who cleared him of hemorrhage risk.

Garcia said that he considers himself lucky because he was able to go to another medical center for help, and his parents lived nearby, but that he wonders what the process would have been like for a first-generation and/or low-income (FLI) student or those using Tier 1 Cardinal Care.

According to Vaden’s website, Tier 1 Cardinal Care only allows students to go to Stanford University Medical Center or Menlo Medical Clinic with a reference from Vaden. Within Tier 1, students pay between $25-35 copayment for most office visits and outpatient services. For inpatient services, there is 100% coverage after a $100 annual deductible and a $500 copay per admission.

Cardinal Care also offers a Tier 2 plan of medical care, which allows students to receive care from any Health Net “preferred provider.”

“For someone who’s in Cardinal Care, in Tier 1 Cardinal Care, who are only allowed to go to Stanford Hospital, they will still be stuck with this [system]. And I don’t think that’s fair. I think that needs to change,” said Garcia.

Garcia said that he is planning to advocate for more affordable and more expansive healthcare options for students, including by presenting to the Undergraduate Senate (UGS) later on this year. He said he will also work on a survey to send out to Stanford students about their experiences with healthcare. Members of the GSC, like Emily Schell, GSC co-chair and fifth-year developmental and psychological sciences Ph.D. student, offered their support to Garcia.

“I really want you to be circumspect in your precious time and energy that you’re investing in this. Because I really don’t want to see you invest time only for it not to be taken seriously by the University,” said Schell. She cited the challenges that she said the GSC has experienced in its own efforts to advocate for graduate student affordability.

Schell referenced surveys the GSC had conducted in the past and the most recent petition with over 2500 signatures that graduate students published to request affordability support from the University. The petition lists the GSC’s demands from the University, such as raising the graduate student 2023-24 salaries, publicly reporting information and calculations used to determine the minimum salary adjustment, reinstating the Marguerite Lines N and O and shopping express and creating permanent graduate student advisory positions to work on affordability issues.

“The University still has not done anything. They have said they are not in a position to move on initiatives as basic as publishing the data sources they use to get the minimum salary for us,” Schell said regarding the University response to the petition.

In a statement to The Daily regarding graduate student affordability demands for a Feb. 26 article about a GSC meeting, where the petition was discussed, University spokesperson Stett Holbrook wrote in an email that “We absolutely recognize that some students may encounter additional financial needs beyond those of the average student over the course of the year and to assist we offer several grant programs including graduate family grants, emergency grants and grants for health care.”

Student support: Cooking lessons, tax preparation

Christina Betondo, senior associate director of student culinary excellence provided the GSC updates on behalf of R&DE about dining for the rest of the quarter. She announced that midnight breakfast is returning on March 13 and that grad students are specifically encouraged to go to EVGR or Munger. She also said that Teaching Kitchen, a program meant to teach graduate students to cook, will return next quarter for weekly sessions.

Betondo informed the GSC that, during Spring Break, most dining halls will close on Friday March 24 after dinner and reopen on Saturday April 1 for brunch. Arrillaga and Lakeside will be the only dining halls open throughout break for students staying on campus.

Jack Mao ’25 presented on another topic of student support: TaxFellows, a student-led initiative that provides free tax preparation services. TaxFellows is partnered with the IRS and Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service.

Mao explained the goals of the organization and said that he hopes to grow a stronger relationship with the administration in order to gather more assistance, with members of the GSC offering their advice and support.

“I applaud your efforts here … I’m not sure that this is exactly within our [the GSC’s] purview, but it is something that I think the administration can support you more and help put you in contact with the right people,” Berg said.

Judy N. Liu '26 is the Academics desk editor for News and staff writer at The Daily.

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