| 03.20.2018

Could be tuition-free

Faculty Senate approves 100 percent dependent tuition waiver Tuesday

University of Idaho Faculty Senate approved a proposal Tuesday that has the potential to make UI tuition-free for dependents of UI employees.

Now at the discretion of UI President Chuck Staben and the Board of Regents, the policy would increase the dependent tuition waiver to 100 percent, allow multiple dependents to utilize the benefits simultaneously and make nonresident students eligible.

Kattlyn Wolf, Faculty Senate member from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, introduced the amended policy to Faculty Senate April 7 as a representative of the Alternative Compensation Task Force. Wolf said the purpose of the proposal is to increase employee morale.

The current dependent tuition waiver covers 50 percent of resident tuition costs for one dependent.

Katherine Aiken, interim provost and executive vice president, said last week she did not feel Staben would consider it a high budgetary priority to increase the dependent tuition waiver benefit.

However, James Foster, Faculty Senate member from the College of Science and task force co-chairman, said he recently attended a meeting with Staben and thinks he would be open to hearing the proposal.

“The president — and the provost — was concerned about the loss of tuition revenue in the first year of this program,” Foster said.

Foster said Staben thought the proposal could improve morale.

Liz Brandt, Faculty Senate member from the College of Law, said even if Staben does not see the proposal as a priority currently, Faculty Senate’s approval of the proposal could raise the idea to his attention.

“I think we push the culture when we ask for things that are important to the faculty as a whole,” Brandt said.

Multiple senators expressed their thoughts on the role dependent tuition benefits played in their choosing and staying at UI.

Brandt said at the beginning of her career, the benefits package was a downside because it didn’t do enough.

“I can tell you, this is a crucial factor,” Brandt said. “We have trouble recruiting faculty … this is something that would really help us.”

Andrew Brewick, Faculty Senate member from Advising Services and father of two children, said the administration’s support for the policy would mean a lot to him and his family.

“This will play a huge role in whether or not I pursue employment elsewhere,” Brewick said.

Foster said if employees look elsewhere for employment, they are likely to find higher salaries.

Laila Cornwall, assistant director of the American Language and Culture Program, was involved in creating the proposal. She said the policy would increase employee morale.

“We have people who are custodians who can now (if approved) afford to send their students to college,” Cornwall said.

Clint Jeffery, Faculty Senate member from the College of Engineering, questioned how the State Board of Education would handle providing UI employees with 100 percent coverage of dependent tuition. He asked if the board would feel required to extend the benefit to the rest of the higher education institutions.

Senators also expressed concern about the limited number of employees the benefit would reach.

Of the proposals to increase morale examined by the task force, Foster said not a single one included all employees.

“I think we ought to do what we can do and start out with the things that can make a larger impact,” Foster said. “If I work with a happy employee, it’s going to make my life better.”

Wolf said although the task force’s aim is to increase morale for most employees, she understands it’s important to take steps.

“I think it’s entirely appropriate we do something that doesn’t benefit everyone,” she said.

Stephan Flores, Faculty Senate member from the College of Arts, Letters and Social Sciences, said a 100 percent dependent tuition waiver is something he could see at a private institution, but he struggles with envisioning how it would play out at a public university.

Foster said the idea has merit because it’s one way of addressing UI employees’ low morale.

“I personally think that the university as an institution has to do something to address the turnover rate,” Foster said.

 Katelyn Hilsenbeck can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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