Over the semester, the SUNY system has limited almost all of its graduate students to only working up to 29 hours a week so that they will not be considered “full time” workers. As a result, they will not be given benefits like paid healthcare, which was made available through the Affordable Care Act.
The reason, of course, is to save the university money. As of right now, Stony Brook currently has over 8,000 graduate students enrolled in various different programs, with more than 5,000 being full-time students. If the university had to pay benefits for even half of these students, that would be a pretty penny that the university is more than likely unwilling to pay, as evidenced by restricting the worker’s hours to make sure they are only part-time workers.
Now, the problem with doing this, of course, is that some students might rely on some of the benefits offered through working as a full-time employee of the university, such as healthcare, which already costs a figurative arm and a leg in our country.
But how could the university not want to offer any benefits to these students? While it is more than likely that most of these students are not working 40 hours a week, it is the overall principle of actually helping out the people that do most of the grunt work and research for all of the projects that our university undertakes that is the real sticking point that people are using for their complaints with the university.
And why should they not? As already mentioned, most of the work that is done on the many of the projects done at Stony Brook are performed by graduate students. If I were one of these students, I too would be angered at the fact that the university would not want to pay my benefits for all of the work that I do for the university.
Of course, though, the actual problem with giving all of these graduate students full benefits is figuring out where the money would come from.
As everyone knows, we are a state school, which is funded by New York State. Unfortunately, we do not have the elaborate private funding that a non-public school might have, which means that the money for their benefits would come in either one of two ways. Either budget/fund cuts to somewhere on the campus, or an increase in tuition rates, both of which would cause an uproar among the student body.
So what can graduate students do? Unfortunately, at the end of the day, they are still students of the university and will not normally be working full time unless it is during the summer or winter breaks. Maybe through, protesting some type of benefits could be achieved for the graduate students, but with the amount of work they already do, I highly doubt that they would like to take that task on.
Unfortunately, if graduate students want to have benefits, somehow the university is going to need to find money, and I can more than guarantee that no one wants to pay any more money than they already have to.
The fact of the matter is that this issue is a double edged sword, and either way the sword comes down, someone or some group of students will be on the receiving end of the blow.