FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2011
(AUSTIN) — Aiming to boost research funding and enhance the stature of Texas universities, the Texas Senate on Thursday (April 14) unanimously voted to extend university health care plans to graduate students awarded fellowships.
Senate Bill (SB) 29 by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would allow universities to offer employee group health insurance to graduate students awarded post-doctoral fellowships valued at $10,000 or more per year.
"When a graduate student declines a university's fellowship offer for any reason, including lack of health insurance, the university misses an opportunity to receive critical research funding," Senator Zaffirini said. "SB 29 would allow Texas univeristies to recruit aggressively students with prestigious fellowships, thereby bolstering research funding and enhancing our efforts to create national research universities in Texas."
Texas colleges and universities already are allowed to offer health benefits to teaching assistants and other graduate student employees. By comparison, students with graduate fellowships often must take second jobs, incur significant debt or forgo health insurance coverage as they seek to maximize their award.
"Graduate students who are offered fellowships are among the best and the brightest," Senator Zaffirini said. "Because of the lack of health insurance, however, many of them decline fellowships in Texas or do not apply. SB 29 would encourage these scholars to bring their talents—and research dollars—to our state."
SB 29 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. The continued progress of this and all bills authored by Senator Zaffirini can be monitored via the internet at www.legis.state.tx.us or by contacting the Texas Legislative Reference Library's toll free in-state hotline, 1-877-824-7038.
SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-LAREDO, is Chair of the Texas Senate Higher Education Committee. She champions legislation and funding that promote excellence in higher education.