This archived article was written by: Ryan Ware
Free tuition for employees and their families may be a thing of the past at CEU. A proposal to change the employee tuition benefit to 50 percent instead of 100 percent has angered some people on campus.
President Mike King asked the College Senate to review the tuition benefit policy because state budget cuts mean the CEU budget is 7.48 percent less than it was a year ago. The legislature is now meeting to set the budget for next year and CEU will probably have to find more ways to save money.
CEU will waive about $85,000-$90,000 in tuition for employees and their families this year, according to Brandon Keller, CEU controller. In 2009, tuition for 963 credit hours was waived, according to data compiled for College Senate by CEU’s Director of Human Resources, Jay Stephens. The majority of those credit hours (689) were taken by the spouses and dependent children of employees. CEU had about 280 employees in 2009 and the tuition benefit was used 63 times by employees and 76 times by families.
CEU, like other community colleges in Utah (Snow and SLCC), offers a 100 percent tuition waiver for full-time faculty, staff and their dependants. At four-year schools, where tuition is more expensive and the cost to the institution for covering full tuition is high, it is the practice to provide only a discount to employees instead of completely free tuition. Utah State University and the University of Utah give a 50 percent tuition waiver to employees and their families.
When CEU and USU merge next July, the tuition benefit for people working on the Price and Blanding campuses will change. Employees hired at USU-CEU after July 1, will get 50 percent off all courses offered at any campus within the USU system. Employees hired before the merger, will continue to get 100 percent off lower division courses offered at CEU plus they will also get a 50 percent reduction in tuition for courses taken from other USU campuses, including distance education classes and online courses. Because USU tuition is much more expensive than CEU’s, the dollar amount waived for any courses taken at other USU campuses will be higher.
With more budget cuts in the near future, CEU needs to decide if it can continue to waive 100 percent of tuition for CEU courses while covering the additional 50 percent for USU courses. College Senate has been discussing the issue for several months and will vote on a proposal to change the benefit to 50 percent at a meeting on Feb. 4. If approved this change would mean that all CEU employees regardless of when they were hired would be covered by the same 50 percent tuition benefit. If the change is not approved, some CEU employees would have a 50 percent benefit while some other employees and their families would get free CEU courses and half off USU courses.
“It is difficult to decide whether or not to change our existing policy because we have no way of predicting how many employees and their kids might want to take the more expensive USU courses in the future,” says Susan Neel, chair of College Senate. “It could be that very few people will take USU classes. Or we may find that the opportunity to send your kids off to Logan for four-years of school at half price is pretty attractive and lots of employees will take advantage of that. And there may be employees who will want to get graduate degrees at USU because those courses would be 50% off,” said Neel. “It is just really hard to know how much we might save ourselves by changing to a 50 percent benefit or how much more costly it would be to maintain a 100 percent benefit as we merge with USU,” said Neel.
Many of the faculty and staff opposed to the tuition waiver reductions have kids that are planning to attend CEU, or are taking classes themselves. Employees who support the change feel that half price for tuition is still a good benefit and if a reduction will help save jobs it is worth it.
“College Senate has to make a decision about changing the policy based on what will be in the best interests of the school, not on the opinion of one group of employees or the other. The tuition benefit is important because it helps CEU attract and keep good employees and it encourages all our employees to be engaged in life-long learning. But it is also important for the college to manage its financial affairs responsibly and that is tough to do when budgets are being cut so much,” says Neel.