Laurier enhances parental leave financial supplements for graduate students

Jamie Mere, Graphics Editor

Wilfrid Laurier University has recently made enhancements to parental leave funding for full-time master’s and doctoral students, pursuing a research degree.

This grant, in effect since Sept. 9, is available for full-time graduate students taking a temporary leave from their studies during the first year of their child’s birth, adoption, or when they first gain custody of the child.

The grant is specific to graduate students in a research program with a funding package (i.e. a research or teaching assistant student).

Dr. Douglas Deutschman, Associate Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, spearheaded this project alongside the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies (OCSG).

“Parental leave can be adoption, or other forms of having a child come into your care full-time and I think the university recognizes that it’s really important to support those students,” Deutschman said.

The goal to enhance Laurier’s parental leave support has been in the works since last October.

“It was a really strong collaborative effort. We sought input from a lot of stakeholders across campus and input from other universities across the province so that we could really say, ‘this is a good program, or this is an average program or this is a program that is weaker than some,” Deutschman said.

The grant is designed to cover the first 12 months of parental leave. The grant can and should be used with any other available Employment Insurance benefits, and maintains financial support at the level of 95 per cent of the average pre-leave funding amount per term.

“We went through (our policy) and said, ‘what if a student was in their second term and they were on this support, or their fourth term and they were on that support?’ And we’d run through the calculations and see how they’d play out in different scenarios to make sure there weren’t surprises where people could fall through the cracks,” said Deutschman.

The maximum amount of funding available per student is $10,000, with a $4000 maximum being granted for the first term and a $3000 maximum for the second and third. Longer leaves may be granted, but will be unfunded by the university.

“That’s actually higher than average,” said Deutschman. “The fact that you can have support in the third term is very unusual.”

Those looking to apply must do so two months prior to their expected leave, via the parental leave application form, which can be found online under “Graduate Funding and Awards” on Laurier’s website.

When looking to return from parental leave, “students are expected to confirm their return date at least four weeks in advance of a term,” said Deutschman.

Students must have completed at least one term of study prior to their leave before they are deemed eligible for the grant. This is an enhancement from the previous grant policy, wherein students had to have completed three consecutive terms before being eligible.

The grant can also be split between parents if both are eligible Laurier graduate students. Further, students who do not return to their studies following the leave will be required to repay the grant they received.

The recent enhancements made to the graduate student parental leave grant are an example of Laurier’s commitment to supporting and strengthening the graduate student program.

“I think for a school our size, we probably have the most supportive and generous parental leave policy, and I am really proud of that… as a smaller comprehensive university, we’re always trying to make sure we support our grad students to the best of our ability,” said Deutschman.

“I think that our policy is in the top tier of supportive policies in Ontario, and I’m really pleased with that.”

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