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University Senate pushes for more tuition assistance benefits for faculty, staff and their families


The KU faculty, staff and student governance meetings I check out on occasion can venture into some esoteric territory. (Thursday I witnessed a debate that featured several folks weighing in on whether a proposed policy could be described as "Byzantine.") But they can also be quite educational.

For instance, Thursday at a University Senate meeting I learned that KU does not provide as much tuition assistance for its faculty or staff or, especially, their spouses or dependents as some other universities around the state and the nation, at least according to a report from a task force that had looked into the subject. (That's the other thing about these governance groups: There are a lot of task forces. Task forces and committees, of the standing and non-standing varieties.)

The group was led by Donna Ginther, a professor of economics, and it reported that KU's policies on tuition support for faculty, staff and their families lagged behind other Board of Regents institutions and a selection of seven "peer" universities from around the country, for the most part.

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, which theoretically allows for up to 15 credits per year if you factor in the summer term. However, that policy doesn't apply to anyone who has a doctoral degree, which obviously counts out a lot of faculty. And it does not stretch to spouses, children or dependents. KU is the only Regents university that doesn't offer assistance to dependents, and one of only two (along with Washburn) not to offer it for spouses.

Kansas State University, for example, allows for a few free credit hours for spouses or children of faculty or staff each semester, with a few qualifiers. K-State reported to the group that it provides just shy of $1 million worth of tuition assistance each year, on average. KU's estimated cost is around $275,000 per year.

There is one big caveat: The children and dependents of KU employees and faculty 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. That covers about three credit hours, at the tuition rate paid by incoming freshmen for 2012-13. According to the report, that scholarship paid a bit more than $150,000 in tuition for 185 students this academic year.

Anyway, as you might expect, the faculty, student and staff representatives who put this report together recommended that KU expand its assistance. They suggested expanding it to all faculty and staff with at least six months' service and their dependents, spouses or domestic partners, and also providing more credit hours' worth. The group reported it was tough to guess exactly what that might cost, maybe somewhere between $400,000 and $1 million. It suggested KU pay for that with savings from its Changing for Excellence efficiency campaign.

Ginther argued in Thursday's meeting that the expanded assistance might help KU, too, perhaps making it more attractive to potential faculty. And, she said, the children of faculty and staff might likely be pretty good students that KU would like to recruit.

University Senate president Chris Crandall said he guessed that the university administration would be unlikely to make that change right at the moment, as budget matters are uncertain. But the faculty, staff and students at the meeting Thursday voted unanimously to send the recommendation and the accompanying report to Provost Jeff Vitter.

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  • Comments

    Keith Richards 5 years ago

    The "cost" of providing additional tuition assistance to faculty, staff, and dependents is really almost $0. Unless so many people use it that it requires opening up new sections of the classes, there really is no increased cost to the University.

    merickson 5 years ago

    That's a point that was raised during yesterday's meeting — the accounting of "costs" for such assistance could be tricky. That's something I'll ask about when I look into this issue in more detail, which I hope to do soon.

    Thanks, Matt

    Gedanken 5 years ago

    You are right. However, the amount of money a department or school receives is based on enrollment on the 20th day of school. There is also quite a bit of money that is above and beyond tuition. At KU, there is the base rate and than each professional school has a course fee per credit hour. For example, the $1000 scholarship mentioned above won't cover the cost of a single three hour undergraduate class in the School of Business with a course fee of $119.70 per hour.

    ask88888 5 years ago

    You are right on, KRichards. There is a HUGE difference between cost to the university and lost revenue, and this fits into the latter, though KU would have us believe it's the former. There is NO COST TO THE UNIVERSITY for allowing increased faculty/staff/family access to courses, only revenue not realized. How is it that smaller schools, such as Avila University in Kansas City, can afford much more generous tuition "assistance" policies? Because KU IS CHEAP.

    elliottaw 5 years ago

    For the same reasons I can't go to your company picnic, or get the health benefits your company offers. KU needs to improve the benefits that they can offer their staff,/faculty even by regents levels they are poor. You can't have poor pay and poor benefits and expect to be able to attract people, throw in the pay caps that Brownback wants and it could be very hard to attract and/or keep anyone here. They are already dealing with no pay raises for their works on the horizon. Be honest would you take a job where you know that you would get no raise for the next 2-3 years and that you would probably max out in the money you could earn there in about 7-8 years?

    elliottaw 5 years ago

    Holy caps lock batman! Then maybe you should look to switch jobs, if you have a job with bad benefits and pay don't stay. And no it wouldn't add any extra cost to add one or two people to a class that is already formed, would it cost you more to get to work if 1-2 people rode with you? There are a lot of non-KU jobs that already offer tuition assistance and most university offer it to their workers and dependents. KU needs to step up or fear falling behind.

    Alceste 5 years ago

    Should such inane silliness be legislated, the least that can be done is that the dollar amount of money NOT paid be counted as taxable income and the recipient "University family members" pay both state and federal income tax on the amounts NOT paid.....

    mom_of_three 5 years ago

    classes received as free as part of tuition assistant at KU IS counted as taxable income

    elliottaw 5 years ago

    using that logic all students/athletes on scholarship should pay taxes for the amount of their education, and since athletes travel they should pay on the free transportation/meals that they are getting.

    Alceste 5 years ago

    yes, they, or their families should. Remember, we're in Kansas and Kansas don't like that 47% who don't pay their fair share......

    elliottaw 5 years ago

    I thought it was just the top 10% that didn't pay their fair share....that's right Kansas government doesn't like math

    Tammy Copp-Barta 5 years ago

    Actually we do pay taxes on tuition assistance. We receive a 1098 form from the University as it counts as a scholarship and we have to claim it on our taxes.

    Gedanken 5 years ago

    Technically, you can ask to audit the class. It won't cost you anything. You just won't get credit for it towards a degree. I know of quite a few retired people around town that take courses at KU for fun.

    valgrlku 5 years ago

    I'm all for increasing enrollment and permitting more people access to college, but how about expanding tuition assistance to graduate students, too? With an EFC of $0 from my FAFSA, I receive roughly $1200 per year (if I'm full time) in grant money from the University (pretty much a "you're poor, so here's some assistance" fund), IF that aid hasn't "run out" by the time Financial Aid gets around to figuring my aid package (submitted well before the Mar. 1 deadline). In-state tuition (and fees) is roughly $2500 for two classes (6 hours total). Full-time enrollment would be more. Yes, a "bargain" compared to many places, but still very difficult to manage out of pocket each semester.

    Graduate students have not benefited from the guaranteed tuition freezes that undergrads do and have seemingly shouldered the brunt of yearly tuition increases without an increase in funding. Read: grad tuition goes up every single year - no locked-in prices for us, unfortunately.

    If this goes through, maybe I should just "marry" an employee, so I can afford to finish my degree...

    Gedanken 5 years ago

    The cost of some benefits at KU are already based on salary. Health insurance and the mandatory life insurance policy are two examples. You pay more out of pocket for the benefit the more you earn.

    Tammy Copp-Barta 5 years ago

    When I was going though orientation with my son, I met some people there from I believe Michigan, who said that dependents of faculty and staff at their universities got to go there for free!! I was shocked.

    Also while on vacation in Florida, we met a waitress who had just graduated high school and was talking about college. She said since she graduated from a Florida High school, she could attend college instate for free. I have not verified, but it would be interesting to know which universities around the country do offer free education to employees/spouses/dependents or at least reduced cost. I would be surprised there are many with the economy the way it is .. but who knows!

    KU_cynic 5 years ago

    Four key points:

    1) The Regents permit it, so why wouldn't KU's top brass go for it; 2) KU should have a policy at least as generous as K-State's; 3) KU needs every edge it can conceive of in recruiting and retaining faculty; 4) If more faculty children come to KU it will be doubly beneficial:
    a) more talented kids will go to KU and stay in-state; b) faculty with kids at KU might have more empathy toward other Kansas families and commit more sincerely to the KU undergraduate experience.

    yourworstnightmare 5 years ago

    I think that children of faculty and staff should be able to get free tuition at KU, and no more.

    Some universities give tuition assistance for other universities. I would not support KU doing this.

    But, free KU tuition for the children of faculty and staff is reasonable.

    jayhawklawrence 5 years ago

    Since Lawrence is ranked 178 out of 179 cities and appears to be the area's largest employer this would be an easy decision for me.

    Everybody needs to take more responsibility for this town to get better.

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