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LJWorld.com weblogs Heard on the Hill

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

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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.

No KU tuition assistance is available for Heard on the Hill bloggers, and even if it were, their bosses would probably frown upon that arrangement. But you can offer me your own form of assistance: KU news tips. Send 'em to merickson@ljworld.com.

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  • Comments

    jayhawklawrence 11 months, 2 weeks 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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    yourworstnightmare 11 months, 2 weeks 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.

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    KU_cynic 11 months, 3 weeks 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.

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    irtnog2001 11 months, 3 weeks ago

    If they are going to provide tuition assistance to dependents (which I disagree with), I would base tuition assistance for dependents on income. I don't think dependents of a full professor should get as great a benefit as say a dependent of a lower paid professor of staff member.

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    valgrlku 11 months, 3 weeks 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...

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    midwest_muser 11 months, 3 weeks ago

    Shouldn't all employees get free stuff from their employers? Free booze for liquor store employees? Free cars for auto dealer employees? Free food for Dillons staff?

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    irtnog2001 11 months, 3 weeks ago

    Lets think about this. Does the one additional student require the use of additional facilities such as chairs, room space and equipment? Do they require additional teacher time to answer questions and grade papers? If your theory was true the first student to sign up for a class should have to pay more and each additional student that signs up less.

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    irtnog2001 11 months, 3 weeks ago

    Thats sounds like a ludicrous argument. If thats true, why can't I as a non-employee just go for free too?

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    Keith Richards 11 months, 3 weeks 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.

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