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Archive for Monday, May 13, 2013

KU faculty, staff push for improved tuition benefits for themselves and their families

May 13, 2013

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KU tuition assistance report ( .PDF )

Rick Levy is a distinguished professor of law at Kansas University. But when his son, who graduated from KU in 2011, enrolled in courses at the school, he paid the same tuition rate as his classmates.

He did receive a $1,000 annual scholarship available only for the dependents of KU faculty or staff, but he lost it a few years later when there was not enough funding available for all the students who qualified.

Contrast that with a friend of Levy’s, who is a faculty member at a private university elsewhere in the country. Levy's friend sent five children to costly, high-ranked schools for college — all on his employer’s dime.

Granted, Levy says, it’s probably not reasonable to expect KU to offer the same benefits as deep-pocketed private universities. But even among public universities, KU trails others in the state and some around the nation when it comes to tuition assistance benefits for faculty, staff and their families.

That was the conclusion of a report released last month by a small group that included faculty, staff and student representatives. The report recommended that KU expand tuition benefits to match its neighbors and peers.

Such a move, Levy said, would fit nicely with the university’s often-stated desire to recruit and keep top-flight faculty members.

“It provides a reason for people to come here and stay here — or not go elsewhere where they might get better benefits,” Levy said.

Donna Ginther, a professor of economics and director of the Center for Science Technology and Economic Policy at Kansas University.

Donna Ginther, a professor of economics and director of the Center for Science Technology and Economic Policy at Kansas University.

Donna Ginther, a KU professor of economics who studies labor markets in academia, led the task force that produced last month’s report, which was about a year and a half in the making.

KU allows faculty and staff who work at least half-time to apply to take one free course each semester, for up to five credit hours. The policy allows for a maximum of 15 credits per year at KU or, in some cases, at certain other institutions, such as community colleges. However, that policy doesn't apply to anyone who has a doctoral degree. And it does not extend to spouses, children or dependents of faculty and staff,

KU is the only Kansas Board of Regents university that doesn't offer assistance to dependents, and one of only two (along with Washburn) not to offer it for spouses, the report found. The group also compared KU with a sampling of other public research universities around the country, and found that KU’s benefits were on the low end among that group, as well.

Children and dependents of KU employees and faculty can get help in another way, however: They are eligible for a merit scholarship from Coca-Cola, as part of the company's beverage deal with KU, for up to $1,000 per year.

But that benefit has been unchanged since 1998. Since then, average yearly tuition and fee costs for KU undergraduates have increased nearly fourfold.

“When it was started in 1998, I’m sure it provided a good subsidy,” Ginther said, “but it never increased in value.”

At the rate for first-time KU freshmen in 2012-13, $1,000 will pay for about 3.4 credit hours — roughly one-quarter the typical full-time load of 15 credits.

Ginther’s group recommends that KU expand its assistance policy to include spouses, domestic partners, children and dependents of staff and faculty, and increase the number of free credit hours offered to seven per semester — roughly half the typical full-time credit-load. It also would do away with a stipulation that faculty or staff who have doctoral degrees are ineligible. That would make KU’s benefits roughly the same as those at Kansas State University.

“I think that would be a step in the right direction,” Ginther said. She argues that the move would help KU attract and keep good faculty, while also helping to recruit some bright students. Both of those are stated goals in the university’s “Bold Aspirations” strategic plan.

The question, of course, is what the cost would be, at a time when KU officials are waiting to see where the state Legislature lands on funding for 2013-14. Diane Goddard, KU’s vice provost for administration and finance, said KU must actually pay the tuition for staffers approved for the assistance benefit, using a pool of money set aside for that purpose. Individual departments depend on tuition revenue for their budgets.

And, she said, it’s difficult to estimate with any precision how many people might take advantage of expanded benefits.

KU’s University Senate voted unanimously to send the study group’s recommendation to Provost Jeff Vitter last week, but the administration has not yet been able to study possible costs yet.

As a “wild guess,” Goddard said the expansion might cost the university an extra $1 to $2 million a year. Currently KU spends about $275,000 per year on the tuition benefit, Ginther’s report said; Kansas State spends just less than $1 million on its program.

Goddard said she and other administrators would study the recommendation and also consider the possible benefits. She said, however, that all matters budget-related are a bit uncertain for now because of the uncertainty over state funding.

“I can’t predict at this point how this is going to turn out,” Goddard said, “but I can say the task force has done a really good job.”

Comments

George Lippencott 11 months, 1 week ago

A point I forgot. The rich faculty members arguing here are those where extending a salary increase would lead to about half of it going for taxes. A scholarship to a dependent could be manipulated to be that dependent's income and taxable to him/her. Since few people in that age range make much money it is essentially untaxed at the federal level and only taxed a bit in Kansas.

This all sound like greed to me.

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Glenn_Bouganville 11 months, 1 week ago

Some of you people just do not get it. It's not all about Levy or Ginther this benefit helps the facility maintenance worker who makes 35k a year or any other staff person on campus. This benefit is common throughout higher education. For example, most Ohio and PA state schools allow dependents of their faculty and staff get 100% tuition benefits on undergraduate degrees and tax at 40% graduate tuition. This is huge for administrative assistants and lower level employees. Do people making six figures take advantage, sure but the vast majority of university employees are not making six figures. Think about the big picture and do not let the fact that you paid for your own education get in the way of the betterment of the community. This benefit is a huge recruiting tool and also helps in retention.

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irtnog2001 11 months, 1 week ago

This wouid be a perfect opportunity for the endowment fund to step up and start a trust to pay scholarships for employee dependents. No reason for taxpayer support for this.

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Nikonman 11 months, 1 week ago

The last I heard, the average KU faculty salary was about $110,000 per year. And that was several years ago. Does the 70K figure include the TAs to bring the average down? As far as the staff employees are concerned, they may be KU classified employees, but they are on the same retirement system as other state employees who get no tuition assistance. Bottom line, KU Faculty members are the highest paid public employees in the state and can well afford to educate their children. I'd like to see some actual proof of what KU Faculty and staff make. By law that information is open to the public.

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oneeye_wilbur 11 months, 1 week ago

Anyone earning $188,000 a year can pay for the child!!

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ronniejamesdio 11 months, 1 week ago

well now maybe ku police will get rid of me from speakin the truth.......just as professor levy makes more then 100 grand a year im sure ku police chief is more then that......... as is his captains paychecks ...........minus 10 grand...maybe 90 grand a year,,,,,what do u really do?...nothing and u know it....why don't yall just quit and get u great retirements and open it up for the officers below u...hell u have had so many people quit on u...and a few lucky souls got their retirements under kpf.....over paid and underworked...and Kansas tax payers pay for it...your legacy is that u all u ever were was a security guard...while the rest of us slave to make a paycheck based on hardwork and honesty......losers!

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ronniejamesdio 11 months, 1 week ago

why not fire the ku police chief and his top 4 adminstrators who never even worked for a real police dept...shoot they all make at least 100 grand a year and enjoy great retirements...I cant belive they are still there after 100s of others have been employed at ku police and have since quit or got lucky enuf to retire under theier great kpf Kansas police and fire overpaid and underworked retirements while the rest of us slave to even make a paycheck...let Lawrence police handle the few criminal calls on campus...im tired of my Kansas tax dollars supporting that police dept..no offense to its cops who actually do something....but truth is they don't and neither does their bosses.....why didn't they ever work for a real police dept..cause their bosses never would have made it as real cops!

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SFFMassSt 11 months, 1 week ago

If sons and daughters of illegal residents can get instate tuition, it's only fair that government employees sons and daughters get more benefits from the working middle class taxes of Kansas. If one group get benefits from taxpayers, so should the other.

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yourworstnightmare 11 months, 1 week ago

Tuition assistance is a nice benefit for faculty, but in these times of decreasing budgets and higher tuition, it makes little sense for some of the highest-paid state employees to receive these benefits.

There is a possibility that this will drive away quality faculty, but I think the possibility is remote, as most faculty want to send their children to better schools in other states and countries for a well-rounded experience.

KU should focus on using its resources and scholarships to recruit the best students from the state, country and world, regardless of faculty status of their parents.

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KU_cynic 11 months, 1 week ago

Rick Levy made $188K last year at KU. Donna Ginther $171K. Not exactly poster-profs for the need for subsidized tuition for dependents of KU employees.

It would have been much better politically if the task force had been savvy enough to identify some hard-working staff members or lesser-paid humanities professors to serve as examples of KU employees whose kids could benefit from a tuition break. But no, they let Rick Levy stand up and tell his story . . . never a shortage of words there.

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oneeye_wilbur 11 months, 1 week ago

Distinguished prof of law comes begging! Wt?

My parents put 6 children through on one salary! And saved money, never owned a new car, lived in a 12,000 house for 32years, and helped others. Levy is a disgrace to the university staff!

The child can get a job on campus!

NO. to more freebies for KU staff!

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streetman 11 months, 1 week ago

Well I'm not afraid to ask the obvious (and probably politically incorrect questions): why should KU's, or for that matter any state-supported school's) faculty receive this tax-payer supported perk? I had to manage my education funding, and that of my kids -- why should they get it at my expense?

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Bob Reinsch 11 months, 1 week ago

If another Kansas Board of Regents school is offering better benefits than KU, then that either those benefits should be mirrored at KU, or the other school should have the benefit removed. There should be consistency across the board. Regarding the idea that faculty shouldn't want to send their kids to Kansas, I say hogwash. Professors know more about the quality of individual programs than people on the outside looking in. Kansas has a number of programs that are nationally ranked, and many others that are on the rise.

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George Lippencott 11 months, 1 week ago

IMHO the faculty and staff at KU should be afforded all the financial opportunities available to the average Kansan for whom they work.

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irtnog2001 11 months, 1 week ago

Let their kids qualify for scholarships the same way everyone else does, based on merit. I doubt many take teaching positions at KU with the intention to send their kids there anyway.

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Dont_Tread_On_Me 11 months, 1 week ago

KU leadership decries its lack of funding. Its employees are now asking for more benefits. Seems like a bad time to be asking to me.

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question4u 11 months, 1 week ago

It sees unlikely that very many professors would want their children to attend KU if they had other options. Thanks to the attitudes of people like the first few posters above, Kansas does not have a university that is even in the top 100. Both KU and K-State dropped in the last national rankings. You can attend a higher ranked university just by crossing the state line to Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, or Oklahoma. The disparity will get even bigger if the Legislature cuts more funding this year.

Tuition benefits seem like a minor point. Professors obviously believe that education is important, so it's hard to imagine them wanting their kids to stay in Kansas. This isn't a state for educated people.

Kansas is simply not a state for quality higher education.

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Bob Reinsch 11 months, 1 week ago

Faculty and staff children have a shot at one scholarship? I wonder how many scholarships they are explicitly denied access to due to the need to avoid the appearance of favoritism or nepotism.

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weiser 11 months, 1 week ago

This way they can learn early to have others pay their way. They can follow in their parent's footprints and depend on taxpayers for a whole life of free stuff, with minimal work.

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