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GPSC discusses possible student health insurance increase, student activity fee redistribution

By Marnie Leonard

Graduate and Professional Student Council members on Tuesday evening discussed the possibility of an increase to the university’s student health insurance costs.

GPSC member Sheena Hart, who sits on the Student Health Advisory Board, said Aetna, the university’s current health insurance provider, informed the administration of fewer enrollees in the insurance plans because of declining enrollment. A smaller pool means providing insurance for the university is no longer profitable for the company.

“Aetna basically said they were probably going to drop us,” Hart said.

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Currently, the university uses the insurance company’s highest tier health plan, which costs $650 per student per semester. Gallagher Student Health, the contractor company that helps identify the cheapest insurance options, determined the best course of action would be to purchase a lower-quality plan.

This would cost about $50 more for each student who uses the health insurance per semester and increase the pharmacy co-pay costs for prescription drugs.

“This is a step down from what we have, but whenever they went outside of what Aetna provides, there was not a better plan,” Hart said.

Hart said she wanted to bring the issue before GPSC to make sure graduate students would support it. If enrollment increased or more students started using the university insurance, she said, the original plan could potentially be bought again.

Hart said the change would have no effect on the university’s $6 Student Health Center fee per visit.

Johnathan Flowers, GPSC’s vice president for student affairs, said he planned to draft a resolution to request that the sitting presidents of the council and Undergraduate Student Government be added to the list of ex-officio members of the Faculty Senate.

“While this would not enable us to vote, it would enable us to voice an opinion on matters that affect us,” Flowers said.

Brandon Woudenberg, the council’s president, said GPSC made a commitment at the beginning of the year to be more engaged with university and administrative affairs.

“We have been dismissed and more or less belittled by some faculty,” Woudenberg said. “It’s hard to have grounding when you’re just there as a visitor.”

The council also voted in support of a resolution to allocate a portion of the money the Student Programing Council receives from the student activity fee to GPSC.

The resolution is based on a survey circulated to graduate students that asked if they regularly attend non-academic events hosted by SPC, which receives about 17 percent of the $46.48 per-student activity fee to hold things like movie nights and concerts on campus.

The purpose of the survey was to determine if graduate students thought their student government organization should get a larger portion of the fee. Currently, $18.60 goes to support GPSC, Undergraduate Student Government and support staff. Of that portion, GPSC is allocated 20.5 percent based on graduate and professional student enrollment.

About 90 percent of the surveyed graduate students supported allocating more of the student activity fee to events graduate students attend more often, like departmental lectures, which the results showed 42.7 percent frequent.

Of the 294 graduate and professional students who participated in the survey, 82 percent said they thought SPC events were geared toward undergraduate students. When asked what programming council events they do attend, 44 percent said they attend none. The top event was the Sunset Concert Series, with 34 percent of those surveyed saying they regularly attend.

“This survey informs what we already knew. Graduate and professional students are not participating in activities sponsored by the Student Programming Council and don’t feel included in such programming,” said Willie Lyles III, vice president for administrative affairs.

The council also asked in the resolution for two graduate student seats on the programming council, to be appointed by the GPSC president.

Lyles, who is also chair of the council’s fee allocation board, said the council has $1,800 to fund events for the rest of the year.

“GPSC supports the events of graduate and professional students, but our ability to do so has been constrained by the decrease in enrollment,” Lyles said. “A reallocation of the student activity fee to GPSC would allow us to do more for our constituency.”

Staff writer Marnie Leonard can be reached at mleonard@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

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