Faculty Senate discusses increasing dependent tuition benefits to cover 100%
University of Idaho Faculty Senate will tackle the question of addressing employee satisfaction with the prospect of increasing the employee dependent tuition waiver.
Kattlyn Wolf, Faculty Senate member from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, introduced the proposal to Faculty Senate last Tuesday. There will be further discussion about the proposal preceding a vote Tuesday.
The proposal is designed to increase the employee dependent tuition waiver benefits from 50 percent to 100 percent and it would allow more than one dependent to utilize the benefits simultaneously.
Katherine Aiken, UI interim provost and executivemvice president, said any change voted on by Faculty Senate regarding the employee benefit would need to go to UI’s board of regents.
“It’s not an action that the senate could actually accomplish,” Aiken said. “The president will be making the decision about whether or not this is a budgetary priority. I suspect that it is not.”
Wolf said the proposal came out of a committee reviewing benefits and employee satisfaction. After examining employee turnover rates, she described the cause to be low morale.
“How can we make people feel valued?” she said.
She described the proposal as one step in a series of many “small, cumulative things to make them feel more valued.” The strategy was to find a way to enhance benefits without costing anything, Wolf said.
“We have a possibility of 282 individuals that have dependents who are attending or planning to attend college,” she said.
Russell Qualls, Faculty Senate member from the College of Engineering, said allowing more than one dependent to take advantage of the policy simultaneously is positive because if children are not more than four years apart, the benefit only helps one.
Although the policy wouldn’t impact every employee, Wolf said this was not the intent of the proposal.
“We were in favor of making a large difference to a smaller number of people,” she said.
Wolf said only one of UI’s peer institutions provides dependent tuition in full to employees, but the school is also compensated by the state.
“We could be better than our peers at something — so let’s be better at this,” Wolf said.
Faculty Senate members posed several alternatives, as well as concerns to the proposal.
Larry Stauffer, Faculty Senate member from the College of Engineering, questioned why only board-appointed employees’ dependents were eligible.
Wolf said the committee is open to widening the spectrum.
“I don’t think many of us realized how many temporary faculty we have,” she said.
Stauffer said a questionable aspect of the proposal is that it would ignore students’ GPA and readiness for college. He posed the question of keeping the coverage at 50 percent, but then allowing students to accept scholarships.
Wolf said the committee assumed it would not be an option, since students receive financial aid up to a certain point, but she is open to revisiting the topic.
Another suggestion, made by Stephan Flores, Faculty Senate member from the College of Arts, Letters and Social Sciences, was to include a need-based component.
“It got really messy,” Wolf said of committee talks about need-based considerations.
The committee previously looked at dividing the allocations into thirds to account for income brackets and then providing 100 percent to 50 percent of tuition waivers, Wolf said.
Faculty Senate will revisit the topic Tuesday, vote, and if passed, will send the proposal to upper administrators for consideration.
Katelyn Hilsenbeck can be reached at email@example.com