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Tuition Benefit

UA education benefit to come up at December regents’ meeting

The UA education benefit (the “tuition waiver”) for employees comes up from time to time in various venues, including the Alaska Legislature and most recently at the November Board of Regents meeting. Human Resources is scheduled to provide an update on the benefit at the Dec. 12-13 board meeting at the request of a regent. 

The UA administration will provide facts and context so all relevant information about the employee education benefit is available to the board.

Here are some points to keep in mind:   

  • The employee education benefit is funded from unrestricted and restricted funds via the employee staff benefit rate; dependent tuition waivers are managed internally using unrestricted funds.
     
  • The benefit applies to both non-degree and full degree programs and is available to the employee (classes taken during work hours require supervisor approval); their spouse/Financially Interdependent Partner; and children.
     
  • Last January (Jan. 2013), the administration added a six-month waiting period for new employees to coincide with a new employee’s probationary hire status. The number of credit hours that could be used was increased from 12 to 16 credit hours to encourage timely graduation. The non-credit waiver was increased from six courses to eight courses. A minimum GPA requirement was added to coincide with the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) required for recipients of other forms of financial aid.
     
  • The total value of the credits waived was booked at $4.8 million for FY13, down slightly from the FY12 total of approximately $5 million.
     
  • Students using waivers pay significant fees, and residential students pay room and board.
     
  • Usage is evenly split between employees and their dependents. Waiver students represent approximately 6 percent of total UA students.
     
  • Reducing or eliminating the benefit could result in revenue generation only to the extent that dependents and employees continue to attend UA at their present credit loads.
     
  • Benefits typically are among those matters up for negotiation with each new contract for employees who belong to collective bargaining units. A change to the policy could affect the collective bargaining process.  
     
  • The administration has supported the benefit for employees for a number of reasons, including:
    • Its importance in recruitment/retention of excellent faculty and staff
    • To maintain a competitive position with other universities
    • It provides relatively low-cost, in-house faculty/staff development
    • It keeps students/dependents in state (i.e., “growing our own”)
    • It helps expand staff understanding of UA’s mission
    • And it helps connect staff to students and faculty to staff.

According to a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article http://chronicle.com/article/Tuition-Remission-Costly-for/142475/ nearly 90 percent of colleges provide some sort of education benefit to employees. Additionally, according to a 2012 CUPA (College and University Professional Association for HR) survey, 96 percent of responding institutions provide some variation of a tuition waiver to employees at both public and private institutions. Eighty-four percent provide waivers to spouses; 88 percent provide waivers to dependents.

UA Statewide Human Resources recently conducted an employee survey on the usage and value employees place on having the education benefit for themselves and their dependents. Results from that survey will be shared when they become available.

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