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Archive for Thursday, January 18, 1996

FREE CLASSES FOR KU EMPLOYEES DOUBTFUL

January 18, 1996

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— A proposal to offer KU employees a tuition waiver is on life support.

Thelma Simons takes comfort in Chancellor Robert Hemenway's commitment to her education.

"Anything he can do would be appreciated," said Simons, president of Kansas University's Classified Senate, which represents 1,700 employees.

Hemenway said Wednesday at a meeting of the Council of Presidents that he's not ready to give up on creation of a program that would allow full-time KU employees to take classes without charge.

No other chief executive of a Kansas Board of Regents university has embraced Hemenway's proposal. The regents Council of Chief Business Officers denounced the idea.

"I'm inclined to regroup and decide whether this is something KU can do on its own," Hemenway said.

Hemenway's proposal would permit the university's 4,000 faculty and staff to enroll in one course for free each semester if there was space available in the class and the employee's boss approved time off work.

Political arguments have been raised in an effort to kill the initiative. State legislators questioned the $28 million in tuition waivers already granted regents university students each year.

Business officers are concerned about loss of tuition revenue paid by employees taking classes and the potential for legislators to extend the benefit to non-university state workers.

Simons, a computer network administrator who has worked on an English degree at KU since 1992, said unclassified staff pay $175,000 annually in tuition at KU. She's uncertain how many colleagues would take classes if Hemenway were to persevere.

"We've done surveys. It looks like maybe 10 percent," Simons said. Regardless of the number, she said, "we feel very strongly about this. We feel a better-educated employee is a better employee."

Hemenway said the program could be paid for with private donations, university funds or a tuition waiver.

"If we really believe in education as a means of improving the work force," he said, "then we need to invest in that belief."

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