We did it! New resources for student parents at NU

We did it!

After years of lobbying Northwestern for better resources, we are finally starting to see results! Northwestern recently announced new programs for parenting students including child care subsidies, paid family leave, more lactation rooms and a dedicated staff member to help students find the resources they need. Here are the details:

Child Care Subsidies
In addition to the existing fee assistance program at Bright Horizons and other university-affiliated centers, NU recently unveiled the following child care grants:

  • $2500/year/child (up to 2 kids)
  • Portable— these grants can be used for ANY child care provider including in-home care.
  • Flexible— they can be used for part-time or full-time care.
  • MUST APPLY BY OCTOBER 1– so apply now!!
  • Unfortunately these subsidies can only be used for children under six. However, if people with school-age children keep asking for assistance, perhaps they will expand this program.
  • A reminder that students may use the Action for Children network to help find childcare in Evanston OR near your home.
  • See details

Paid Family Leave
Northwestern recently approved a new family accommodation policy (FYI, they call it “accommodation” rather than “leave” because the university does not consider us employees). The policy was approved on May 18, but first made public in August. The new policy is:

  • Longer–12 weeks instead of 6 weeks;
  • More inclusive–Fathers, same sex couples and adoptive parents are now eligible;
  • PAID–Funding for leave is now provided by The Graduate School. In the past, funding for parental leave was deducted from a student’s research funding. This basically amounts to an extra quarter of funding if you have a child.
  • See details

Lactation Rooms
We have already more than doubled number of lactation rooms on the Evanston campus (Now 9, used to be 4).

  • New locations are:
    • Frances Searle
    • Main Library (they added a second room)
    • Seabury
    • Alumni Center (two rooms)
  • Upcoming rooms:
    • Kresge
    • Mudd Library
    • Walter Athletic Complex
    • Kellogg
    • Simpson-Querry (Chicago campus)
  • Access to these rooms will be simplified with a card-swipe system. This means anyone registered in the program will be able to access ALL of the lactation rooms on both campuses. It will also help the university track usage.
  • There is now an interactive campus map showing lactation room locations.
  • See details

Dependent Health Insurance
The cost to add a spouse or child to an Aetna student healthcare plan has been reduced.

  • It now costs $3,799 to add a spouse or dependent to a student health insurance plan. Previously, it cost $4,313 per child and $6,890 for a spouse. In our opinion, these costs are still too high, especially for international students who do not qualify for insurance marketplace plans.
  • NU is currently working on a payment plan so students don’t have to pay these high costs up front at the beginning of the year.
  • See details

Dependent Care Grants
These grants can be used for childcare during professional development events or any other research activity (like having a spouse travel with you to a conference or hiring a babysitter while you go to an archive).

Family Resources Liaison
To improve communication, NU has designated a single point of contact to help parenting students find the resources they need. It is our understanding that NU is currently interviewing for this new position. In the meantime, students are directed to call Human Resources at: 847-467-1460. Please let us know if you have problems getting answers to your questions.

While these programs are not perfect, they are a huge improvement. We hope that these changes represent an overall increased attentiveness to the needs of parenting students at Northwestern and beyond.

Please share these resources with your colleagues, and with your faculty advisors, mentors and your directors of graduate studies. Students cannot take advantage of these policies if they do not know that they exist.

Finally, we would like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who wrote testimonies, came to meetings, attended focus groups, edited policy drafts, wrote us letters of support, and who shared our updates on Facebook and Twitter. We could not have done it without you!

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