Intercampus tuition benefit pilot study in the works

Tentative proposal: Dependents could use $2,400 for tuition at any campus

A task force charged with studying how to improve the tuition waiver benefit for faculty and staff is pursuing a potential three-year pilot study that would provide a consistent, intercampus benefit for dependents. Currently, campus employees do not have an intercampus tuition benefit.

For years, achieving consistency for the benefit has been a goal of governance groups including the Faculty Council, which heard an update on the matter during its Sept. 22 meeting at 1800 Grant St.

Task force chair Susan Szpyrka, University of Colorado Colorado Springs senior vice chancellor for administration and finance, said a $2,400 annual intercampus benefit for dependents is the tentative proposal for a pilot study that would begin in fall 2017. Funding and logistics for that pilot must be determined by Dec. 1 in order for that time table to be met.

“There is a very strong desire on the part of the CFOs to do something and not just come back and say, ‘We’re still studying it,’” Szpyrka told the council. “This is really one of the pushes toward getting the pilot going.”

A benefits-eligible employee at any campus would be eligible to use the proposed benefit for a dependent to use at any other CU campus for undergraduate study. The employee’s home campus would be responsible for payment of the benefit to the CU host campus chosen by the student. The employee’s tuition benefit at his or her home campus will initially remain unchanged.

The benefit would not preclude the use of scholarships and other financial aid. It would not take the place of any existing benefit and would not count against any merit pool for salary increases.

Campus CFOs will draw on the pilot study to determine the feasibility of the benefit continuing, specifically whether the model is financially sustainable.

“We’re always concerned with, can we afford to do something? We’re also concerned with, are we doing things the right way?” Szpyrka said.

Faculty Council and Staff Council have long advocated for improvements to the benefit, which currently varies widely across campuses and system administration. President Bruce Benson directed the task force to look into the benefit; its work began in June.

Besides the financial impact of the benefit on the university, the pilot also would provide an opportunity to measure how it might improve employee recruitment and retention – an argument often used as another justification for the expansion.

Despite seemingly broad popularity for expansion of the benefit, Szpyrka noted that she has heard from opposition.

“I’ve heard from several people who say, ‘I don’t want an investment in this because I will never use this. Or, ‘I have no dependents.’

“Well, we have health insurance benefits that not all our employees use, either. … Some people have unused vacation time, which is a benefit they elected not to use, which was their choice. Not everyone elects to use all their benefits, but that doesn’t mean we don’t look for other benefits to (add),” she said.

In other business at the Faculty Council’s Sept. 22 meeting:

  • Board of Regents Chair Irene Griego spoke to the council and answered questions about the board’s move to establish a system vice president for diversity and her thoughts on the upcoming regent elections: “I’m curious to see who will win,” she said. “It’s not uncommon for me to tell the board, ‘Leave your politics at the door – this is about education.’ … I wish everybody well. I’ve met (all the candidates) and think they’re all good people. I think when you put good people together they’ll make good decisions.”
  • Michael Lightner, vice president for academic affairs, updated the council on the ongoing review of CU Regent laws and policies. Governance groups will be able to review proposed revisions on a website expected to launch soon. Academic Affairs, System Legal Counsel, the Office of Policy and Efficiency and campus provosts have been leading the work. “We’re seeking questions and concerns, not edits – these are not Word documents where you’re going to cross something out,” Lightner said. “What we’re hoping is that faculty governance – through the Faculty Council and faculty assemblies – will provide a consolidated, prioritized list of comments and concerns.”
  • Ken McConnellogue, vice president for communication, updated the council on the systemwide marketing campaign, which garnered 87.8 million impressions from September 2015 through June 2016.