Tuition benefits for

by Sam Kean

At a faculty Senate meeting Thursday, University President Mark Yudof temporarily dashed the hopes of employees seeking tuition benefits for dependents.
Yudof acknowledged it makes sense to give faculty and staff members’ children tuition breaks to attend the University but said for now raising faculty pay and improving employee health care coverage take priority in legislative funding requests.
Animal science professor Mike White brought up the question at Thursday’s meeting, but the idea has been tossed around the University for the past 20 years, he said.
White, whose oldest child is 12 years old, will face this issue in upcoming years. He has taught at Ohio State University, which is similar in size and demographics to the University, and there, dependents get tuition benefits, he said, as they do at most universities.
And because the public assumes they are given at the University too, “there’s no outcry.”
White went on to dismiss arguments against the policy.
Some claim tuition breaks are unfair because employees without children don’t benefit, but still end up paying. But White said tuition breaks are no more unfair than spouses of faculty members receiving health coverage while other faculty are unmarried.
He conceded compensation and health care are priorities for more employees but said the gesture would be simple to implement and meaningful.
He pointed out ways the costs would be offset. First, the University could better recruit and retain staff with families, saving training and search expenses. Second, extending this offer shows loyalty to employees and would boost morale, leading to a better University environment and more students to pay tuition.
But Faculty Consultative Committee chairman Fred Morrison echoed Yudof’s comments. The Faculty Senate as a whole supports the issue, he said, but right now, “the money needs to go elsewhere.”
He also said the cost would be greater than many supporters assume.
Nevertheless, the senate will formally vote on dependents’ tuition next month. That motion would ask Yudof to look into the issue.
But neither Morrison nor White have high hopes the Legislature will approve tuition breaks in the near future.

Sam Kean covers faculty and encourages comments at [email protected]