CU employee benefits have grown healthier

Study measured improvements from 2010 to 2013

A 2013 study comparing University of Colorado employee benefits to those provided by similar institutions of higher education shows the university has made improvements since the same benchmark study was conducted in 2010. The university now ranks at or near the top 25 percent of peers for both faculty and staff benefits.

A synopsis of the report was presented to the University of Colorado Staff Council by E. Jill Pollock, vice president of Employee and Information Services, during the council’s regular meeting March 13 at 1800 Grant.

CU’s ranking was upgraded from a position near the 50th percentile in the previous examination, in part because of “an above-market retirement program and higher medical subsidies,” according to Aon Hewitt, the consulting firm that conducted both studies.

Also, CU’s ranking increased because the university made a “handful of modest benefit improvements” and because of “some downward movement” in retirement benefits and larger increases in costs for health care offered at the 16 universities that were used for comparison.

Overall faculty benefits are about 9 percent above average while staff benefits are 7 percent above average, according to the study.

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Pollock said in 2010 that the university was “deficient” in two areas: the Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) and long-term disability. She said CU has since removed the one-year wait for eligibility in the savings plan, which improved the plan value, and increased the monthly maximum for long-term disability.

The university ranked near average for its retiree health care.

However, the university was well below average when it came to death benefits (life insurance) and dependent tuition. The study found that six peer universities provided one times pay or more life insurance benefits. It also found that nine peers provided a dependent tuition benefit; however, CU ranked below all of them because of its limit on credit hours (nine).

Pollock said the university has solicited quotes for better life insurance plans and is still exploring options to improve tuition benefits

Boulder recently decided to move forward with a 10 percent tuition discount that dependents may use during any semester, in lieu of a specific number of credit hours. Previously, dependents enrolled full-time were restricted to using credits during the summer semester.

The study also found that while CU offers a slightly higher than average amount of paid vacation days than its peers, its 10 paid holidays — set by the state of Colorado – rank below average.

The study compared CU to these higher education institutions: Colorado State University, Indiana University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, University of California, University of Illinois, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri System, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Texas System, University of Virginia, University of Washington, and the University of Wisconsin.

To see the complete report online, visit

Pollock also told council members that health plan costs will increase – somewhere in the 7 percent to 9 percent range -- this year. She said the Health and Welfare Trust also plans a series of communications in an effort to reduce the number of non-emergency cases treated at hospital emergency departments.

In other business, Staff Council members chose the recipients of the annual Service Excellence Awards, which recognize staff members who have provided outstanding and sustained volunteer service to their campus, community/civic/professional organizations, and the university as a whole.

Winners of the award – one from each campus and from system – will be announced during the All Staff Conference on April 18. Each honoree receives a plaque and a $1,000 cash award.

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