Benefits

Extended Health Plan is a supplementary health care plan providing additional coverage for medical, dental and vision related expenses not insured or not insured in full by OHIP/UHIP or a private health care plan, such as that offered by the Society of Graduate Students. Any graduate student who worked as a TA during academic year is eligible to apply to EHP. The maximum reimbursement amount varies from academic year to year. Today the maximum is $499.

The EHP is funded by the Employer as per the last Collective Agreement. According to its provisions the Employer provides $150 for each of the GTAs to the Local. Because not everyone uses their full quota in each academic year, the Local has been able to provide $499 as a reimbursement limit.

The most popular categories in EHP application are dental and vision expenses. Many GTAs benefit from this program, but about 14% members reach the reimbursement limit and have to apply to our other program, Financial Assistance Fund.

Financial Aid Fund

Financial Assistance Fund supports three programs administered by the Local.

  • The Food Support & Resources Fund is intended to aid members who are experiencing chronic or unexpected financial need or an emergency that diverts income from their food budget. The Fund has an annual budget of $12000 for over 2000 members. Given these limited resources, not everyone is approved. Each successful applicant will receive $75 in food bank vouchers, plus $25 for every dependent in their household (e.g., spouse, children) to a maximum of $175.

Total reimbursements (Food Support and Resources)

  • Financial Assistance funds the following categories of expenses:
    1. Medical Emergencies (maximum $500 per term),
    2. Personal Emergencies (maximum $500 per term),
    3. Academic/Conference Travel (maximum $300 per academic year),
    4. Child Care Subsidy (maximum $500 per academic year).

Because of limited funds, only applicants showing the greatest need are reimbursed.

Average Requested Fund vs Distributed (per approved applications)

  • UHIP offset fund ($50,000 in 2017/2018) is equally distributed among international GTAs who expressed interest in receiving the assistance. The University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) is a private health insurance plan providing coverage similar to OHIP to international students. The assistance depends on the number of applicants and varies from year to year. In 2014 - 2017 the compensation varied from $77 to $138, which is way below the UHIP premium of $612 per year.

Financial Aid Fund is funded by the Employer as one of it responsibilities stipulated in the Collective Agreement. In 2017 the Employer contributed $125,000 toward the fund.

Dependents

20% of GTAs have one or more dependents (excluding working spouse/partner)**

Among international GTAs with dependents, 53% have a dependent who is not enrolled into UHIP**.

Mental Health

We are asking for a limited coverage for Mental Health services for GTAs.

Graduate students “are six times as likely to experience depression and anxiety as compared to the general population.”*

Graduate-student specific issues included**:

  • Supervisory relationship, which included pressures from supervisors to devote all their time to their studies, conflict with supervisors, fear of disclosing mental health problems to supervisors because of concern regarding potential differential treatment, supervisors not understanding mental health issues or disabilities, and supervisors not recognizing the tremendous stressors students face.
  • Isolation which included working independently on thesis work, less check-in points with students after course work is completed, having a single supervisor to work with, and communication challenges for post-doctoral fellows who feel far removed from the university campus.
  • Financial and career anxiety, which included living in poverty, especially for students who have to support families either locally or within their home country, and the stress of finding an academic position (or any other job) upon graduation.
  • University services designed for undergraduate students, which included little or no well-being groups offered during the summer months when graduate students are still on campus, the need for graduate student-specific counseling, the confidentiality concerns of attending health and mental health services in the same places as their own students.
  • Requirement of full-time academic status, which included the requirement to be a full-time student or take an official leave of absence from your studies, with no option to be considered for part-time status.
  • Imposter syndrome, which included trying to obtain an unattainable ideal of what constitutes academic success, with no real understanding of what success means or how to achieve it, where the criteria of what it means to be successful is constantly changing, and where mistakes and failures are not acceptable
  • International graduate students, which included many of the same concerns as non-international graduate students albeit exacerbated by heightened pressure to succeed from families who send their children abroad to graduate school, integrating and fitting into a new culture and community, the lack of family and social networks upon first arrival and ongoing in many cases, the additional financial stress of not completing a degree in the anticipated time period and asking family for additional support to complete the degree, and the cultural and ethnic stigmas surrounding mental health.

*https://www.nature.com/articles/nbt.4089.pdf

**See Western's Student Mental Health and Wellness Strategic Plan

* PSAC Local 610 Spring 2017 survey (553 responses)

** PSAC Local 610 Fall 2017 survey (820 responses)