Tuition waiver benefit could be expanded by July

Faculty Council hears results of study comparing CU's offerings to those elsewhere

The University of Colorado has room to improve its tuition waiver benefit in comparison with other comparable institutions, according to a benefits study commissioned by the university.

The study by Aon Hewitt also found that CU's benefit programs for faculty and exempt professionals are competitive with peer institutions, and that the net value of all employer-paid benefits is slightly above average for faculty and exempt professionals.

The study is the latest step in the university's ongoing consideration of expanding the tuition waiver benefit, potentially increasing not only the number of available credits but also allowing transferability of credits from the employee to a spouse or dependent. Such a benefit was tested in a pilot project that proved popular at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

E. Jill Pollock, senior associate vice president and chief human resources officer, summarized the report at the Jan. 28 meeting of the Faculty Council. She said university administrators are examining how to proceed with likely expansion of the tuition waiver benefit, which could go into effect as soon as July 1.

Pollock also said the university's Health and Welfare Trust is reviewing suggestions for changes to plan designs. Federal requirements are leading to the lifting of litetime limits on plans, as well as the addition of 100 percent coverage for preventative doctor's visits and tests.

Also at the Jan. 28 Faculty Council meeting, CU Regent Joe Neguse, D-Boulder, and Ken McConnellogue, associate vice president for University Relations, spoke and answered questions about internal and external communications. The council is pursuing the creation of an ad hoc communication committee that could include representation from University Relations, partly to improve public perception of the university community.

"I think we all agree that in this or any environment, it's incumbent upon us to talk about the good things we have going at this university. They're substantial," McConnellogue said. "You all deal with it every day. We know there's a disconnect between the great, life-changing things we do at the university and what the public sees."

Neguse said he appreciates the job being done by University Relations, including the Faculty and Staff Newsletter, but that he still laments the 2009 discontinuation of the Silver & Gold Record, and that he hopes the newspaper could return at some point in the future.

Discussion also turned to the recently launched branding effort, a $780,000 project in the works for more than two years. Some Faculty Council members said that the new brand should be accompanied by a larger public relations campaign, to correct the perception that the result is nothing more than a logo change. Some members also said the Faculty Council should have been made a greater part of the project while it was being developed.

McConnellogue said the effort entailed extensive research, including surveys and one-on-one interviews with representatives of constituents throughout the system, including Faculty Council.

Neguse, who did not vote on accepting the branding project at last month's meeting of the Board of Regents, said he did not hear objections from faculty before the issue was up for consideration.

"When branding came up, someone should have engaged the faculty sooner," Neguse said. "(But) it would make my advocacy on behalf of the faculty a lot easier if we can hear from you all. Call me, call the other eight board members and tell them, 'Hey, look, why didn't you engage us on the branding matter?'"