All students must be covered by a health insurance plan. The department provides coverage through the RA/TA Graduate Student Health Insurance Plan (GSHIP) for all PhD students who receive departmental support. Master’s students, and PhD students who have their studies funded by an outside agency such as an employer or a government program will have to either purchase UNC’s Student Blue plan or provide proof that they have their own insurance.
The university will automatically bill all students for the Student Blue plan, so it will be your responsibility to complete a process called “hard waiver” each semester to ensure that you aren’t charged for that plan if you don’t need it. If you do not waive out and get charged for health insurance, it will be YOUR responsibility to pay for it. ( So unless you want to pay for an extra health insurance plan, be sure to waive out!)
If you have questions about the policy, have lost your ID card, or (pretty common) haven’t received your ID card you can contact the plan administrator, Blue Cross/Blue Shield at 1-888-351-8283.
If your tuition is being paid by the department and you have registered by the proper deadline each semester, you have the ability to go into your Student Center in ConnectCarolina and defer your tuition bill. This will save you from multiple “past-due” notices while you wait for the department to release your tuition payments. If you forget to defer the bill, there is a chance you could be dropped from your courses for non-payment while waiting for your bill to be paid. You can always change your classes later on, so if the deadline is approaching and you still aren’t sure what classes you want just register for something.
Your student ID card (One Card) can be obtained on the third floor of the Daniels Student Stores building. Although it states on their website that Graduate Students can obtain their cards during the week prior to the beginning of their first semester, in practice many incoming students have received theirs earlier than that, as long as they can prove that they are registered for class. Your card will also be activated for use as a key to Hanes Hall, so you can access the building during off hours by swiping it at the west door.
Payroll and taxes
If you have a position through the department – a teaching assistant, grader, or research assistant – you will be paid a certain stipend which is paid out over the course of the semester. Payday is always the last workday of the month. Most tax forms can be filled out in your ConnectCarolina student center, but in some cases (specifically international students) paper forms will still need to be completed. These can usually be picked up from the Student Services manager. Some international students come from countries that have special tax treaties with the U.S. so once they receive their US Social Security number they need to report it and eventually they will get called in to sign the appropriate treaty agreement, which then waives some tax payments.
In January you will receive a statement of your earnings for the previous year, and you will need to fill out your state and federal tax returns. Stipend income is treated as income from employment, not scholarship money, so you do need to pay taxes on it.
The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) restricts access to personally identifiable information from students’ education records without their prior written consent. This applies even to parents of students under the age of 18, unless the parents have filed proof of a student’s dependency status for tax purposes.
What does FERPA have to do with graduate students? Why do we need to take FERPA training? If you are going to be working as a Teaching Assistant you will be given access to student information. Without completing FERPA training, the University won’t be able to grant you that access – and you won’t be able to work, or get paid.
UNC uses Sakai to manage class assignments, grades, communication, and teaching. Each class may use Sakai differently, but you will need an account by your first semester. As you may be receiving assignments, grades and information on Sakai, as well as adding your own grades if you’re TAing, it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with its functionality at the beginning of your first semester. You can use your Onyen to sign into Sakai. You can always ask for help from more advanced students who know the ins and outs better.