I write this letter to express my concerns about the proposed revisions to the EKU Tuition Waiver Program as presented by the Strategic Budget Reallocation Task Force via the Faculty Senate on April 1, 2013. While the revision to the program has identified a cost savings of $1.2 million, the nature of the budget reduction will negatively impact our institution’s ability to recruit highly-talented employees and will challenge those employees who have planned their household finances around the current tuition waiver program. To me, the EKU Tuition Waiver Program has symbolized the very culture of Eastern: A passionate environment committed to high-quality education, care for the community and investing in the employee workforce.

In 2010, Eastern was recognized as one of the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Great Colleges to Work For, an honor that prominently takes into account an institution’s support of professional development. Reducing our greatest source of professional development would diminish our chances of achieving this honor again and will negatively impact the university’s leverage in recruiting the top candidates for employment across the university. As a junior faculty member, the tuition waiver program was a significant factor in my decision to apply for and accept a faculty position at Eastern. Not only does the tuition waiver program provide the opportunity for furthering my own education and the education of spouses, sponsored dependents and dependents, the presence of the tuition waiver program sends a message to potential employees that Eastern cares about the professional development of employees and the future education of those who qualify for the benefit.

For Eastern parents and Eastern employees with sponsored dependents and spouses, the option of utilizing the tuition waiver affects household financial planning. Even when children are still quite young, their future at Eastern plays a role in a household’s decisions with regards to savings allocations, housing and educational placement. These are not minor decisions, particularly in a time of national economic insecurity.

I understand that the nature of our budget reallocation is difficult, and the target amount is substantial. However, it is my sincere belief that this measure will ultimately cost the institution more dollars as employees seek opportunities elsewhere and families reconfigure their dependents’ education at other institutions.

Furthermore, the cost to the Eastern community’s morale is at stake. I fear that revising the tuition waiver program will send a message to employees that the spirit of Eastern has faded away. When an institution eliminates a benefit such as this, that has such a radiating effect on the community’s families, the very fabric of the institutional culture unravels. This is a time to rise above our benchmarks and set a new standard, not reduce ourselves to meet other’s targets. I thank the members of the Strategic Budget Reallocation Task Force for their difficult and time sensitive work, and I urge the committee to consider the long-term growth of the institution, its employees and Eastern family members when discussing the potential revisions to the tuition waiver program.

 

Jennifer R. Wies

Assistant professor of anthropology