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Moving forward with affordability plans

Despite the continued upheaval to everyday life throughout the past year, addressing key affordability issues within the Stanford community remains a university priority. A suite of affordability-related programs and services were implemented in 2020, new programs are being implemented in 2021, and affordability recommendations will continue to be evaluated as the university progresses with long-term recovery efforts.

“It’s significant to me that Stanford has invested in new affordability initiatives for the people who are fueling our teaching and research mission, even during the uniquely demanding year we have all experienced,” said Elizabeth Zacharias, chair of the Affordability Task Force (ATF) and vice president for human resources. “This work is not over. Now, and for the period ahead, we’ll be carefully considering what affordability challenges will confront our community in our post-pandemic reality.”  

Recommendations and evolving priorities

The Affordability Task Force was established in late 2018 in response to the long-range vision initiative related to affordability challenges experienced by community members. In late 2019, a comprehensive report was submitted to leaders and a team formed to develop implementation plans. A variety of recommendations moved forward in early 2020, with some implementations later put on hold due to the pandemic.

Many of the programs and benefits launched in early 2020 turned out to be especially crucial during this time, including emergency assistance grants, increases to child care support, flexible work options, and 12-month funding for graduate students. 

One example of how ATF recommendations evolved during this past year is in the area of flexible work, which can play a role in supporting affordability for employees. One of the ATF ideas was to foster broad-scale teleworking; this period of sustained teleworking has shown us there is a range of operational possibilities, including teleworking, flexible schedules, job sharing, and more. The Long-Term Recovery Team also investigated flexible work options and made specific recommendations that are now being incorporated into the planning for returning to on-site work. 

Events of the past year have affected how we think about affordability and what is proposed for longer-term solutions. Affordability challenges have not disappeared, but priorities may have shifted, so recommendations will be evaluated in light of our evolving needs and environment.

Newly approved programs for postdoctoral scholars

Three new programs to support postdocs launched in late winter quarter 2021. The first is the Postdoctoral Scholar Family Grant Program, to provide up to $5,000 per year per family to eligible postdoctoral scholars with dependent children. Funds may be used flexibly as needed toward family expenses such as healthcare and rent.

The second program is the Child Care Assistance Grant that provides up to $5,000 per year per family to eligible postdoctoral scholars with dependent children to assist with meeting the cost of child care. 

Also beginning in March, postdoctoral scholars will have access to a dependent care back-up program, similar to what is currently in place for staff and faculty through a partnership with Bright Horizons. The program provides up to 10 days per calendar year of temporary, highly subsidized in-home and center-based options for child or elder care under specific circumstances, typically when there is a breakdown in the typical dependent care coverage. 

For details about these new programs, visit the Stanford Today website.

Newly approved program for staff

Staff who are considering purchasing a home may want to take advantage of a new program launching in April. Stanford has collaborated with Landed, a Bay Area company founded by Stanford alumni that helps employees in education, healthcare, and government organizations afford to purchase homes in different regions across the nation. The program will be available to benefits-eligible staff and offers a shared equity down payment program in addition to a suite of home buying education and support options.

Details about the program, along with the availability of online information sessions, will be shared in early April. The program is being jointly coordinated by Land, Buildings, and Real Estate, the Faculty Staff Housing Office, and University HR.

Summary of affordability initiatives implemented to date

Here’s a look at the affordability programs implemented in the past year:

Employee benefits

  • Increased income eligibility cap for MCAP (Medical Contribution Assistance Plan), from $77K/year to $100K/year
  • Expanded paid family leave time to fully paid for six weeks
  • Created Employee Emergency Assistance Fund for employees (grants of up to $5K), including a partnership with America’s Charities to accept donations to the fund
  • Enhanced retirement savings plan to allow a distribution (one-time) while working and age 59-1/2

Child care

  • Increased number of days of Emergency Back-up Care for staff, used for elder or child care, to 10 days per calendar year      
  • Child care grant changes for benefits-eligible faculty and staff to be implemented in the Fall FY21 application cycle will include increasing dependent eligibility to 13 years or younger, increasing household income eligibility to $200K and modifying household income brackets for expanded annual grant awards. 
  • For all families using child care centers: During Covid, Stanford provided financial support for child care centers to enable them to remain open during an extended period of low enrollment and to ensure their ability to accommodate increased enrollment as restrictions are lifted.

Graduate student support

  • Committed to 12-month, five-year funding for all doctoral students who are in good academic standing
  • Expanded supplemental need-based support through the Emergency Grant in Aid and Graduate Student Aid Funds to cover unexpected health or travel expenses, including dependent health insurance and for the last year, unanticipated expenses related to COVID-19     
  • Increased the Graduate Student Family Grant up to $15,000 per year that students may use flexibly to cover expenses related to caring for dependent children 


  • Increased affordable housing by opening the Cardinal Apartments (175 units) in Redwood City, with priority for staff and postdocs; 37 units are available for low and very low income households as well as breaking ground on the new Middle Plaza rental community (215 units) in Menlo Park
  • Removed the first-time home buyer restriction from loans for faculty, so all loans are available to all eligible faculty, even if they’ve previously owned in the qualifying area
  • Provided financial relief for faculty who receive the Housing Allowance Program: payments in FY21 were frozen and a year added to their payout schedule
  • Provided financial relief for community members living in Stanford-owned rental communities by freezing rents (on May 1, 2020) and reducing rents at Stanford West, Colonnade and Cardinal Apartments
  • Initiated a study of the terms for the Restricted Ground Lease and sale of additional homes on the Restricted Ground Lease, providing more opportunities for eligible faculty to purchase homes near campus
  • Opened new Escondido Village Graduate Residences (EVGR) allowing the university to provide  subsidized, furnished on-campus housing for approx. 7,000 graduate students, including students with children


  • Continued the free Pilot GoPass program for eligible postdocs and graduate students through 2021
  • Continued the free Caltrain GoPass, VTA SmartPass, AC Transit EasyPass, and SamTrans pass for eligible faculty and staff through 2021

As the university more fully recovers from the impacts of the pandemic, a key consideration will be meaningful improvements to affordability. 

As we move forward, information will be shared on the Our Vision website:

Contact the Affordability Task Force if you have questions; email