Northwestern extends timeline in capping Employee Portable Tuition Plan benefits for current employees

Troy Closson, Editor in Chief

Northwestern’s Employee Portable Tuition Plan — which pays benefits for employees toward the cost of tuition and fees for courses at other universities — will now no longer be capped $5,250 for current faculty and staff until January 1, 2021.

The plan will still be eliminated for anyone with a hire date after January 1, 2020.

The change was prompted after hundreds of staff members at Northwestern signed a petition last month expressing “numerous concerns with this abrupt policy change and its impact on current and future staff throughout this institution.” Their letter outlined worries about the timing of and short notice given for the change, among other concerns.

Craig Johnson, senior vice president for business and finance, emailed Northwestern community members last month about the change in plans.

“In response to concerns expressed by some employees, we have continued to evaluate the effective date for capping employee portable tuition at the annual $5,250 tax-free limit,” Johnson’s email said. “We hope that this new approach addresses core concerns.”

The Employee Portable Tuition Plan allows employees who completed “one year of full-time, benefits-eligible service prior to the beginning of the term” to receive benefits toward undergraduate and graduate job-related courses at schools other than Northwestern.

Johnson initially notified employees currently enrolled in a degree program outside of Northwestern in September that the change in cap was scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020.

“Over the last several years, the University has experienced increased costs that necessitates specific changes to benefit plans and will impact the educational assistance program,” his first email said.

University President Morton Schapiro told The Daily in an October interview that after two years of operating in a multi-million dollar deficit, the University ended fiscal year 2019 several million dollars in surplus, though the email doesn’t name that as a reason for the change.

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