Staff members: Tuition benefit has room for improvement
The tuition benefit program has too many restrictions, according to employees who responded to University of Colorado Staff Council (UCSC) surveys and other solicitations for program recommendations.
The council discussed the benefit, and the comments received, at its regular meeting Nov. 8 at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
UCSC Chair Stephanie Hanenberg will forward suggestions from each campus on ways to improve the tuition benefit program to E. Jill Pollock, vice president for employee and information services, who is re-examining the benefit, which currently differs by campus. Employees receive nine credit hours per year to use toward tuition for most courses, but must register on the first day of classes on a space-available basis. The credits may be transferred to dependents.
The Colorado Springs campus implemented its pilot benefit program, which has fewer restrictions than other campuses. For instance, dependents of UCCS employees taking classes on that campus may enroll prior to the first day of classes. The Boulder benefit probably is the most restrictive, prohibiting full-time students from using the credits during the spring or fall semesters. (For more information about the benefit, see the Tuition Benefit APS Fact Sheet at https://www.cu.edu/pbs/tuition-benefit/documents/TuitionBenefitFacts.pdf.)
Some of the proposals that staff members received from employees included:
- Increasing the number of credits to coincide with benefits received at peer institutions
- Removing all restrictions and offering a 50 percent discount for employees and a 25 percent discount for dependents
- Allowing credits to be carried over from year to year
- Removing registration restrictions
- Offering a “cash” benefit instead of credit hours that could be used for tuition reimbursement
- Enabling employees and dependents to take classes at any campus or at community colleges
More than 700 people are using the benefit this fall, according to Pollock. But council members said even more would take advantage of the program if the process were easier.
One respondent to a System Administration survey called the benefit “worthless” because of so many restrictions at the Boulder campus, said Tricia Strating, a member of the System Staff Council.
“Some feel that this is being counted as part of their benefits, but they are not actually getting to use it because it is so inconvenient,” said Deserae Frisk, chair of the University of Colorado Denver Staff Council. “All of the work-arounds that everyone has to do reduce the number of people who are going to further their education.”
Council members agreed that the benefit should be considered part of employee professional development, which also allows the university to prosper, but that the current program does not meet that goal.