Faculty, staff face tuition discount changes

Emma Collins

Tuition discounts given to eligible partners and spouses of faculty and staff have been terminated this semester. Faculty and staff were notified via email late July 2016.

In the same email, Human Resources Director Tony Glisson said the 50 percent tuition discount program offered to the dependent children of faculty and staff members was being evaluated for potential changes.

Ultimately, it was decided not to change the tuition discount program for dependent children for the time being.

Following Glisson’s email, Shane Palmquist, an associate director in the department of engineering, said he was concerned about the effect these changes, particularly potential changes to the dependent children tuition discount program, would have on WKU’s faculty and staff.

“I understand that the University is dealing with financial problems and is trying to balance and manage these challenges as best as possible,” Palmquist said in the email. “However, cutting benefits cuts more than just money from the bottom line. It cuts morale.”

Palmquist said the tuition discount for children was one of the reasons he chose to to come to WKU 12 years ago. Palmquist said he could understand if the university chose to cut these tuition benefit programs for future employees; however, he said he strongly urged the university to consider any changes to the policy that would affect current employees who have “invested a significant amount of time and energy into this institution.”

Josh Marble, chair of WKU’s staff council, said faculty and staff have expressed mixed emotions about the changes to the tuition discount program for spouses and partners via email.

“Some are disappointed because they were utilizing that benefit and it was a real cost saver,” Marble said in an email. “However, there are also those that know that times are tough in regards to budgets and sacrifices have to be made.”

In a follow up email to Marble’s email, Staff Regent Tamela Smith said there was only a small percentage of employees who had spouses enrolled in the spouse tuition discount program. Smith said it was hard for the members who did take advantage of the program, and she said she has heard of some of the enrolled individuals transferring to other universities.

If WKU chooses to end the dependent children tuition discount policy, Marble feels it will cause discontent from faculty and staff who have children attending WKU through the program. However, Marble believes many of the employees understand losing the spouse and partner tuition discount program is part of a plan that will ultimately benefit them.

“I think many look at the big picture and realize that KY really needs to focus on securing the state pension program and that some cuts, although they hurt right now, are worth it if it means we’ll have a solid pension plan when they reach that milestone,” Marble said. “Don’t get me wrong, most don’t want to see those cuts but many realize that we have to adjust to the current economic times or face an even greater problem that could be much worse for us all in the future.”

Ann Mead, senior vice president for finance and administration, said in an email the termination of the partner and spouse tuition discount program was part of the $6 million budget reduction plan. Mead said cutting the program saved WKU $112,000.

In addition to changes to the tuition discount programs, faculty and staff are also facing changes in regards to the number of free meals they receive each semester from WKU and Aramark. In a joint email sent in early August to all faculty and staff, Mead and Steve Hoyng, regional district manager for the WKU Restaurant Group, said employees would no longer be receiving one free meal a week, but rather one per month.

According to the email, the free meal may be used anytime throughout the month for breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Fresh Food Company. Unused meals will not roll over to the next month.

In addition to these changes, the staff council also voted in August to discontinue the discounts page on the staff council website.

Marble said the council voted to discontinue the page because the council felt it was not able to make the page as effective as it could be. Marble said the page had low hits and was not an exhaustive list of the discounts offered in the Bowling Green community.

“We thought it could be better but we just don’t have the resources right now,” Marble said. “We’re going to shop it around and see if the SGA or maybe human resources might take responsibility for it, and they might have the power to kind of make it what it should be.”

Reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @thebest_dilemma.