In an email sent to KU faculty and staff, the University of Kansas announced Thursday that it will begin covering about half of their dependents’ annual tuition starting in the spring semester.
The University is able to do this due to changes to the Dependent Employee Tuition Assistance Scholarship, which is granted to employees’ beneficiaries to contribute to tuition fees. The new policy increased the amount of the scholarship to equal the cost of 12 credit hours per year, or approximately two courses per semester. With this change, school fees for the children of faculty and staff are significantly reduced.
This change is the result of a joint effort between KU faculty and staff. For more than a decade, KU employees have advocated for tuition benefits for their dependents. KU faculty, staff and university senates worked on a concrete policy for five years before sending it to the university just over a year ago.
Shawn Leigh Alexander, chair of the Faculty Senate and a professor in the African Studies department, said the change was possible because the administration was willing to listen to the voices of KU faculty and staff.
“Finally getting the right administration, the right provost, the right chancellor, the right people in finance and admissions, to really have the conversation that faculty and staff were asking them to do,” Alexander said. “I commend our leadership for doing this.”
One of the main reasons why it took so long for the University to implement this tuition reduction policy was the question of budget and profitability. Kansan previously reported that the University has had to make budget cuts in recent years due to dwindling funds available from both tuition and state government.
The University has been reluctant to implement a policy that lowers tuition for many students as it will cost KU more. However, Alexander said the increase in the dependent employee tuition assistance scholarship will not have a large impact on the University’s funds.
“If you have people who leave this institution or send their children to another institution because it is cheaper, you are going to get 50% of the tuition of some of these people that you were not getting at all”, Alexander said. “I’m not a numbers person, but I don’t think it will affect the bottom line as much as people thought.”
Alexander also said that these increased tuition benefits will lead to positive changes on campus. Enrollment will increase, he said, and faculty and staff will be more likely to stay at KU.
“I think it’s a big step forward. It’s a wonderful recognition for the faculty and staff for what they do on this campus,” said Alexander. “I think it will help with enrollment because you have a number of faculty and staff students who don’t stay at KU because it’s expensive without that support.”
The lack of tuition allowances for employees’ dependents was a problem at KU, forcing many faculty and staff to transfer to other institutions that already had benefits in place. Kansan previously reported that the University has experienced a staff reduction of more than 30% since 2009. Most Big 12 and AAU institutions have reduced tuition fees for dependents, so this new policy makes Comparable benefits of working at KU and could lead to better faculty retention.
“A number of faculty and staff have left this institution because that advantage is not there. We’ve also lost people in hiring processes who will say, ‘I was offered an offer at this other institution at the same time, they’re offering this to me and it includes tuition for my kids, so I’m going to go -y,” Alexander said. “It will help with hiring and retention, which is wonderful.”
The email also contained a policy change regarding employee tuition assistance. Under the new policy, starting in January 2023, KU staff will be able to take one course per semester for free, up to 12 hours per year.
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