Earning free tuition

To offer their employees opportunities for professional development and to attract prospective students, Wilfrid Laurier University offers a full-tuition waiver to full-time employees and faculty members and to the spouses and dependents of those employees for undergraduate and graduate programs. Part-time employees are eligible to receive 50 per cent of their tuition waived, whereas spouses and dependents of part-timers are eligible to 35 per cent.

“Its part of the total compensation package that we offer to our faculty and staff, and it’s a very common benefit in the post-secondary education sector,” said Pamela Cant, the acting assistant vice president of human resources. “It allows us to maintain competitiveness with other institutions and obviously a greater attraction and retention tool as well.”

Cant also said that this program had been in place well before her initial employment with the university in 2005.

Over the past year, there have been 68 employees who have taken courses themselves. As for the dependents, there have been 150 students who had their tuition fully or partially waived. These benefits only cover tuition and no other financial aid is given for books, residence and other school-related fees.

Compared to other schools

When compared to some other universities, it appears that WLU is slightly more generous in the tuition benefits it offers.

“Historically [at Laurier], it has been 100 per cent [free tuition] and it’s something that has been negotiated, it is a benefit that is in the various collective agreements on campus,” added Cant.

While some institutions including the University of Toronto and York University mirror the benefits of WLU, institutions such as the University of Waterloo and Carleton University are not as magnanimous.

Wayne Steffler, the assistant vice president of administration at WLU and an employee who took advantage of tuition benefits, was attracted to Laurier for these specific options. “I used this for myself, I got my MBA while I was working part-time, so that was definitely one [factor] that I was considering coming to Laurier,” he told The Cord. “That was something I was looking at and my current employer at the time didn’t pay for that level of education.”

Brock University and University of Western Ontario, who also offer tuition benefits, actually monitor the grades of those privileged with tuition waivers. If they fail to pass a course, or did not reach the minimum grade, then the student would be responsible for payment.

Sam Robinson, who received a dependent tuition waiver when he attended WLU, noted that the school did not follow his grades. “There’s no requirement or sort of average you have to keep in order to do that,” he said.

An appealing benefit

According to the business office and human resources, tuition waivers are funded by general university revenues and the government. Over the 2009/10 fiscal year, $756,000 was paid out for these tuition waivers.

In 2009, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), due to challenges from university employees, revised the tuition benefit policy for dependents of eligible employees so that it was no longer a taxable benefit.

While he did express some concern about the potential cost of these waivers, Robinson stated that, “Honestly, I would say it’s a good thing, it’s probably a good motivator for parents to bring their kids there.”

When asked for her assessment of tuition waivers, Cant said, “I guess philosophically, it certainly encourages the pursuit of higher education as well.”

“It helps us attract and retain great faculty and staff.”

Other schools

University of Waterloo

UW only offers the 100 per cent tuition waiver to full-time employees, depending if they have full benefits with the university. Dependents instead receive a maximum of a 50 per cent tuition waiver, but these numbers can fluctuate depending on which benefit package the employee has. No benefits are applicable to spouses.

Brock University

Brock only offers tuition benefits for undergraduate classes, not graduate classes. Students are responsible for payment if they fail any course they are enrolled in.

University of Western Ontario

UWO offers tuition waivers, or rather a scholarship plan, for dependents of employees. The dependent of the employee can attend any recognized university, but must maintain at least a 68 per cent average.

Carleton University

For undergraduate and graduate courses, Carleton only offers a maximum of $700 for the contract instructors or the dependents of those instructors. Some benefits may exist for full-time employees and permanent instructors.

Similar to WLU

University of Toronto, York University and Guelph University.

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