After years of student activism, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will offer graduate students with children enhanced financial support for child care and other family needs, Dean of the Graduate School Lynn Cooley announced Tuesday afternoon.

The expanded parental relief policy, which will go into effect in the spring, will offer doctoral students with a child unrestricted funds of $2,250 per semester, as well as $500 for every additional child under the age of six. Starting in the fall of 2018, student parents will receive $4,500 each year to spend on health care, child care or any other family need.

The expansion represents a marked increase in benefits for single parents, who were previously unable to take advantage of the subsidized Yale Health coverage that the Graduate School offers to the spouses of student parents.

“One thing we realized when looking into the demographics of our student parents was that not all of our doctoral students were taking us up on this opportunity,” Cooley told the News earlier this month. “What this is doing is providing more flexibility to all of our students so that all of our student parents can benefit in some way.”

The program’s expansion marks a 24 percent increase in the amount Yale spends on family support, or a total increase of more than $400,000, positioning Yale’s policy as the most generous among peer institutions.

At many other institutions, students must qualify under an income threshold or submit financial documents to receive childcare grants. But, under Yale’s new policy, students will only have to indicate parental status on the Graduate School website to receive benefits.

Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Stanford universities do not provide family support to graduate students, according to a statement released by the Graduate School.

Yale already pays the full cost of the Yale Health coverage plan for married graduate student parents. For those students, the expanded funding will amount to an annual increase of just $163, with $1,000 for each additional child under the age of six.

But Connor Williams GRD ’21, a Graduate Student Assembly representative for the History Department whose wife receives Yale Health coverage, said the program will still offer $4,500 per year to almost half of graduate student families who were not receiving any such benefit before.

Single graduate student parents at Yale were previously unable to take advantage of the subsidies for spousal health insurance. But the funding they will be offered under the new policy will be similar to that allocated to married students for Yale Health coverage.

The announcement arrives just a few months after the 10-year anniversary of the Graduate School’s parental relief policy, the first of its kind in the Ivy League. The policy allows graduate students to take a semester off following the birth or adoption of a child with funding beyond the stipend that all students receive upon admission. Between 2007 and 2015, the policy benefitted 294 students and, since its inception, has cost the University $4 million.

The new benefit expansion was prompted partly by the Graduate Student Assembly’s 2016 Childcare Report, which concluded that childcare options in New Haven are limited and too costly for the graduate student stipend. The Graduate School Dean’s Office, the Office of Institutional Research and the Provost’s Office then worked with the assembly to explore possible models to increase benefits for family needs.

For Wendy Xiao GRD ’17 MED ’18, the chair of the Graduate Student Assembly, the expanded benefits are proof of the assembly’s ability to influence Yale’s administration.

But, beyond the benefits for graduate students, Xiao said she hoped Yale would take steps to prioritize the wellness of families across the University.

“Perhaps something could be worked out for professional students as well,” she said. “I hope that one day there may be a Yale family center where all faculty, students and staff may bring their families for community-building programming and resources.”

Williams said he will continue to advocate for increased access to Yale-affiliated childcare centers, as well as need-based assistance.

But administrators doubted the feasibility of a needs-based system.

“We just didn’t see a steep enough gradient for there to justify the administrative cost to doing all that means testing,” Cooley said. “That means we would have to hire a new staff member or divert money into administration that would go straight to students.”

For now, Williams, father of a 1-year-old named Tashtego, acknowledged that Yale’s parental relief policy has the potential to help many graduate student families like his own.

The Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1847.

Hailey Fuchs |