June 11, 2018

Initiatives for graduate student families at Stanford and next steps

I am delighted to announce significant initiatives that Stanford is undertaking to support graduate students who are parents, in order to alleviate stress and to enhance community-building.

In April we received a compelling report from the Student Families Working Advisory Group (SFWAG). The committee’s charge was to better understand the unique needs of our graduate students who are parents supporting families and to develop recommendations to address these needs in the near term and longer term.

SFWAG’s recommendations were recently discussed, along with findings from a Graduate Student Council (GSC) survey, at an open community meeting organized by the GSC with support from the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education (VPGE). Perspectives shared at the meeting and since, from members within the university community including the GSC and Student Parent Alliance, have helped to identify the highest priorities.

We are making a number of initial commitments based on Provost Drell’s review of the recommendations.

Stanford is creating a need-based Family Grant program that provides up to $10,000 per year for a graduate student with dependent children. Funds may be used flexibly to cover expenses such as childcare, healthcare, and rent. The Family Grant builds on the successful model of the Escondido Village Family Fund, which will be subsumed within this program. The fund will be administered by the Financial Aid Office, which oversees other university need-based funds for students. A website for applications will be open August 1st.

The university has also made a one-time commitment of $500,000 to keep Cardinal Care dependent health insurance premiums flat for 2018-19.

The Childbirth Accommodation Policy will be expanded from six weeks to one quarter effective Autumn Quarter. The Office of the VPGE provides stipend and tuition funding during the quarter of the birth of a child for a birth parent who is funded on a research or teaching assistantship. This change is endorsed by the VPGE in collaboration with School leaders and the Faculty Senate’s Committee on Graduate Studies (C-GS), with support from Provost Drell. Consideration of extending academic accommodation to non-birth parents will be discussed when C-GS resumes in the new academic year.

A lactation policy was added and program expansion including dedicated spaces is currently underway.

A dean in the Graduate Life Office will be the main point of contact to advise student parents on how to access resources, interpret policies, and engage in programs that build community. Information about resources and programs for student families will be brought together on the Graduate Life Office website with a dedicated page for student families. These include the Graduate Life Office, Bechtel International Center, WorkLife Office, Financial Aid Office, Vaden Health Center, and the Office of the VPGE.

Stanford will continue to provide the opportunity for students with families to live in subsidized on-campus housing, which is financially beneficial and maintains a vibrant community. The university is also expanding on-campus housing for single students and couples, in an unprecedented building project with 2,400 spaces that costs over $1B. This net gain of 2,000 spaces is anticipated to house 75% of our graduate students in subsidized on-campus housing. In the meantime, the university is allocating over $20M per year to provide subsidized off-campus housing nearby. There is also a graduate housing loan program to assist graduate students in moving off-campus.

The SFWAG report and the GSC survey findings identified additional recommendations to establish a Family Resource Center, hire additional staff, expand resources for childcare and health care—especially mental health and well-being, as well as to create a more diverse, inclusive community. These recommendations will be considered in the next budget cycle and the context of Stanford’s long-ranging planning process, Navigating a Dynamic Future, which includes a Presidential Initiative on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access as well as an Affordability Task Force that has a working group dedicated to graduate students. In addition, as we anticipate the opening of the new housing complex in Autumn 2020, a working group is being convened by the VPSA and VPGE to identify opportunities that enrich graduate student life within the new residences and their integration within the broader campus community.

Graduate education is also a focal point of some recommendations by the GSC, specifically strengthening academic advising and increasing diversity. These align with two significant policy changes passed by the Faculty Senate in April that are engaging faculty in local deliberations about advising expectations and holistic review in graduate admissions. Along with other prominent initiatives, VPGE will continue to convene Directors of Graduate Studies for focused dialogue, identifying effective practices, and providing innovation funds to departments.

The Provost and VPGE will be meeting with the GSC to review the university budget and long-ranging planning, among other topics, during Summer Quarter.

We are excited by each of these significant commitments, and we look forward to continuing to collaborate as we enrich the quality of all our graduate students’ experiences at Stanford.


Patricia J. Gumport
Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs