Plan gives U workers’ kidstuition break

Matt Graham

The University Senate passed a resolution earlier this month proposing a tuition reduction for dependents of University employees.

Dependents must be working toward a four-year degree at the institution.

Dependents of employees who have been at the University for five years will receive a 50 percent tuition reduction, with an additional 10 percent taken off their tuition for every additional year up to 10 years. For dependents of 10-year employees, tuition is waived.

University administration still has to ratify the rule before it becomes official.

The resolution’s proponents said they hope it will make the University more competitive in attracting and retaining top employees while saving the University time and money by reducing the need to recruit new faculty members.

The University is not the first public higher education institution in the state to offer such a benefit; the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system has a similar policy.

Student senator Nathan Wanderman said the policy is “a cost-saving measure,” despite students receiving tuition breaks from the resolution.

Wanderman said it is good policy for the University of Minnesota to recruit employees’ children because they “are usually good members of the (University of Minnesota) community.”

But Steven McLoon, a Faculty Senate member and neuroscience professor, said children of faculty members should attend school elsewhere.

“I think it is a good thing for kids to go away for college,” he said, reasoning many children of faculty members “grew up on campus.”

“They’ve seen the University of Minnesota,” McLoon said.

He also said the University of Minnesota can be more effective in retaining faculty members, starting with increasing salaries.

“Any faculty member can leave here and get $20,000 a year more,” he said.

McLoon said he worries the Legislature might deny funding if it thinks the University of Minnesota has enough money to send employees’ dependents to school for free.

But Morris Kleiner, a Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs professor and the University Senate’s Faculty Affairs Committee chairman, said seven of 11 Big Ten universities already offer similar packages.

“This isn’t about being ahead of the curve,” he said. “The (University of Minnesota) needs to catch up.”

Kleiner also said having children of faculty members on a campus improves teaching performance because the students can tell their parents about how different instructors teach, providing more accountability.

He said studies have shown similar programs improve faculty retention, especially of employees in their 30s and 40s, which Kleiner said are “their most productive years” at an institution.

But McLoon said the University of Minnesota is affordable for most faculty members, and the benefit won’t improve faculty retention here.

“It’s one thing if you’re talking about (Harvard University),” he said. “But this tuition benefit is a pittance.”