KU to expand program that covers tuition costs for children of university employees; some employees also to get additional break on classes

More KU students soon may be seeing mom or dad around campus.

No, there’s not a new plan to get parents on the campus more often, but University of Kansas leaders are unveiling a new program to get more children of KU employees to enroll at the university.

The plan is a simple one: Have the university pay a greater portion of their children’s tuition.

Under the new plan, children or other dependents of KU employees will qualify for a scholarship to cover six hours of undergraduate classes per semester, in addition to a $1,000 annual scholarship that the university already offers.

“One way to be an exceptional learning community is to make education more accessible and more affordable, beginning with our employees and your families,” Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer said recently in a message to university faculty and staff.

The issue has been an important one to several employee groups on campus, and there were signs that KU’s tuition program for family members was falling behind that of other schools.

Before the most recent change, the $1,000-per-year Pepsi Scholarship often was the only program KU offered to children of university employees. At current tuition rates, the $1,000 scholarship pays for about three credit hours of classes.

That hasn’t always stacked up well with what is offered at several other Regents schools in the state, where some employees can get free tuition for their children for up to 12 hours per semester.

KU’s program doesn’t yet match that, but it could create about 15 hours of free tuition, spread out over the course of a school year. Ani Kokobobo, president of University Senate, said feedback on the changes thus far has been positive.

“I have heard broad satisfaction and excitement from colleagues on the Employee Dependent Tuition Assistance program,” Kokobobo said via email. “This is an issue that staff and faculty governance have advocated for on an ongoing basis for many years, and we are very happy that the provost, chancellor, and CFO took action this year to expand this benefit.”

A KU spokeswoman said KU decided to expand the program after hearing from employees, and also because it believes the program will be a good strategy to retain and recruit employees. Plus, the program could help increase overall student enrollment, which will help with university finances because the scholarships won’t cover all costs of attendance.

“The impact of additional students goes beyond tuition to housing, dining and other critical elements of our long-term financial picture,” spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said via email.

Other Regents also are making the same bet, but in even bigger proportions. Pittsburg State has been the most aggressive in the idea of using tuition as an employee benefit program. According to its website, PSU offers a 100% tuition waiver for children of employees for an entire semester. The program allows for employees’ children to get up to eight semesters of tuition waived, meaning they could get a four-year degree through waived tuition. In a more recent change, the program is available to employees as soon as the first semester following the employee’s hire date.

Attempts to reach a representative at Pittsburg State to see how the program has impacted the university weren’t successful on Friday. The program is several notches more aggressive than what other Regents universities are offering currently. But at least two others do offer the prospect of a 100% tuition waiver for children of employees.

Both Fort Hays State and Emporia State offer 100% tuition waivers to the children of employees who have worked for the university for more than five years, according to the websites of both universities. Both schools also offer partial waivers for employees with less than five years of service. Wichita State offers a 50% tuition waiver for employees, according to the university’s website.

Barcomb-Peterson said KU leaders would continue to evaluate the program for potential changes in the future. She said this year’s program already is built into the university financial plan for the coming year. KU will start awarding the scholarships in the spring 2023 semester. She didn’t have a dollar estimate for how much the program is expected to cost the university.

In addition to the program for children and dependents of employees, KU also announced changes to its program for employees who want to take classes at the university. KU previously had allowed employees to take one class per semester free of tuition. The program now will allow eligible employees — generally non-tenure track faculty and staff with more than a year of service — to complete up to 12 credit hours per year without paying tuition. That program also is set to begin in the spring 2023 semester.

The programs do require some approval from the Kansas Board of Regents, but that approval is expected to be granted in November.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.