Last Friday, myself and two other graduate students expressed concerns about proposed changes to our health care costs at Penn State’s board of trustees meeting. These changes amount to a 21.5 percent increase in premiums, more than 50 percent increase for deductibles, and higher out-of pocket expenses.
In response to our comments, board Chairman Keith Masser asked Vice President David Gray for clarification on the renewal date for the Aetna contract. Gray responded, “We think it’s Aug. 1.” No one at the board of trustees disputed this despite the presence of decision-makers at the table. Although Penn State’s administration assured concerned graduate students of a transparent process, the Aetna contract was signed May 13 and terms of this contract are not public.
Signing with Aetna effectively negates the recently established task force created to find solutions for health care goals. The contract was signed on the day of the task force’s second meeting, preventing this institutional body from exploring viable solutions to growing insurance costs.
These changes to health care costs place a huge burden on a financially vulnerable population. The living wage in State College is $18,469 whereas the average stipend for graduate assistants is $17,316, with some students receiving only $14,040 per year. The university must support graduate students’ demands for a one-time stop-gap measure to protect students from increased costs in the coming year.
Graduate students are also Penn State. We deserve a living wage.
Sta te College