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Revisions to Educational Benefit Waivers Approved by President

The university undertook a review of the employee and dependent tuition waiver program as a result of concerns raised by state legislators. The tuition waiver benefit is available to approximately 4,500 UA eligible employees was valued at approximately $5.3 million in FY12.

The review process began in 2011. The legislature and the public have long held questions regarding the university’s management of this important UA benefit program. In response to review recommendations, eight revisions have been made to the program. These adjustments will erase any outside concerns about the program accountability and at the same time offer employees and their dependents a practical, viable path toward attainment of their goals.

These revisions were recommended by the chief human resources officer and vetted through UA governance groups before being approved by President Pat Gamble, a process that has taken nearly two years. Changes are in effect immediately, according to President Gamble, meaning that the new tuition waiver program is available for use by employees for the 2013 spring semester. Program changes are summarized below.

Employee Educational Benefit Revisions

Employee Educational Benefit revisions include:

  • Require a six-month waiting period to coincide with successful new hire employment probation. The chancellor or president must approve any waiver of the waiting period.
  • Increase total possible credit hours for employees from 12 to 16 in an academic year, with a maximum of eight credit hours per semester.
  • Maintain at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA or better for undergraduate program eligibility for employees or dependents. Grade appeals will be reviewed in accordance with the normal procedures for challenges to academic decisions set forth in university regulation and MAU rules and procedures.
  • Maintain at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA or better for graduate program eligibility for employees or dependents. The same appeal process applies as stated above.
  • Clarification regarding “stacked benefits.” Although this has never been allowed, it is now officially stated that two university employees in the same family cannot double-dip on tuition waivers in any way.
  • Tuition waivers are not available for self-support courses, non-credit courses for spouses and dependent children, 500-level courses, and yearlong courses. 500-level courses are intended for professionals as supplemental to their professional credentials at a level distinct from graduate level education. They may, for example, include special topic and independent study courses that do not apply toward any degree, certification or credential program. 500-level courses are not interchangeable with 600-level courses for graduate degree programs. While 500-level courses have never been eligible for tuition waivers in the past, this is being officially added to the policy for clarification.

FERPA Guidelines

FERPA, a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records, will not be violated through these revisions in coordination with the GPA requirements. There are several scenarios in which a student’s educational records can be disclosed without the student’s written consent. One of the situations is disclosure to a school official with a legitimate educational interest in the information. It is the university’s position that the administrative staff needs GPA information in order to calculate the amount of tuition a student owes; therefore, the student’s consent is not required to disclose appropriate GPA information to the administration.

Conclusion

The tuition benefit is an important part of the overall compensation package for a UA employee. A benefit program like ours not only creates a sense of employee loyalty, but it directly impacts retention in a positive way, which far outweighs the cost. Many colleges and universities provide educational benefits to employees and almost half of all public institutions provide waivers for dependents. It keeps a university competitive with peer institutions and helps attract and retain quality staff and faculty. The tuition waiver program also keeps employees in closer touch with the classroom environment.

While some revisions have tightened up the tuition benefit waiver program, others have expanded the opportunity for our employees to pursue their educational goals.

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