GW scales back tuition benefits for employees

GW employees will pay more out-of-pocket for their degrees this year, though University benefits packages will still cover most of their tuition.

The University will cover 90 percent of the cost for 18 credits this year for faculty and staff earning a degree while working full time. Those employees are eligible for benefits after working at GW for six months, nearly double the amount of time they had to be employed by a GW office last year.

Previously, employees had paid just 4 percent of their tuition if enrolled in a degree program, a popular option for staff members looking to earn a graduate degree at night. The tuition benefits had also covered 21 credits a year, which often included summer courses.

Sabrina Ellis, the University’s vice president for human resources, said the decrease will save the University $750,000 this year, funds that will go toward covering employee health insurance. She said it came after a two-year review of GW’s benefits and comparing them to those offered by similar institutions.

“By making these changes, the tuition benefit continues to be competitive, and more in line with what our peers offer,” she said in a statement.

About 660 employees signed up for the tuition benefits last year, and about 50 staff members took more than 18 credits in 2013, Ellis said.

Employees’ dependents enrolled in GW degree programs will still have the same benefits they’ve had since the early 1990s. The University calculates how much of a dependent’s tuition it will cover by the number of semesters the employee has worked at GW and, if they are a graduate student, whether they would have been eligible for benefits as an undergraduate.

The University’s benefits advisory committee spent two years revising the policy, Ellis said.

Provost Steven Lerman said money from the benefits pool is transferred to the schools that employees are enrolled in and registered as tuition revenue.

“The benefit pool is a fixed percentage, so it does free up money in the benefit pool, and it shows up potentially as a reduced-tuition revenue in other places,” Lerman said.

Tyler Anbinder, a member of the benefits advisory committee, said the policy changes could slow the turnover that some offices have seen when staff members take jobs at GW to take advantage of the benefits.

“As soon as they finish their degree, they stop working for GW,” Abinder said. “As a faculty member, that’s not so good for us, because when we hire people, we don’t know if that’s the reason they’re taking the job.”

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