Staff Advisory Council

February 2017

 

Staff Advisory Council

Meeting Minutes

February 15, 2017

9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

HR Conference Room

Present: Bonnie Bresett, Kim Altiere, Susan Gaskell, Brian Teal, Martha Tetrault, ex officio, Kevin Thomas, ex officio, Vishakha Sheoran, ex officio, Tamra Hjermstad, Helena Warburg, Jim Guiden, and Laurie Booth

Absent: Veronica Bosley, Rachel Louis, and Charlotte Clark

Next Meeting: Wednesday, March 15, 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. in HR Conference Room

Welcome New Member

Martha introduced and welcomed Jim Guiden to the Staff Advisory Council. Jim shared that he will be sharing the membership responsibilities on SAC with Charlotte Clark to ensure that the council has a representative from Dining Services.

DART Tuition Reimbursement Policy Proposal

The DART staff sub-committee submitted recommendations regarding the tuition reimbursement policy. SAC began to discuss the proposal.  Martha met with the subcommittee earlier this year to learn more about the recommendations and their origins.

Kevin conducted a peer review of similar benefits at similar institutions and shared a summary. The schools surveyed in this research included were Amherst, Bates, Bowdin, Bucknell, Colby, Middlebury, Skidmore, Smith, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, and Wellesley.

Here are some of the key findings from his research:

  • 100% had some form of tuition reimbursement for staff
  • Benefits were the same for exempt and non-exempt
  • 64% did NOT have a job-related requirement
  • 45% required courses to be for credit
  • 55% had a grade requirement: C for undergraduate, B for graduate most common
  • There is a wide variety of limits on number of courses per year
  • 82% had a financial threshold, $1500 – $5000 per year
  • Only tuition was reimbursed.  No college mentioned payment for books or other expenses.
  • 45% offered courses with no up front costs, either because they offered no tuition courses at their own or a nearby college, or because they paid tuition at the time of enrollment.
  • 18% mention schedule flexibility
  • 20% mention paid leave
  • No college mentioned offering ancillary services (writing help, career help)

Based on the research, it became apparent that a variety of questions needs to be considered before the Council make recommendations to the tuition reimbursement policy. One key question is whether the money is given up front or after the grade is received and what is the threshold, and does it have any flexibility? One of the members questioned why we should put limitations on this policy, and instead, we should try to set an example of a leader in this policy.

Another member questioned whether there is more specific statistics to indicate what is job related and how much of an impact it would have on the decision. Members of the council wondered whether this policy should be restrictive in course selection; should it be based on job relatedness? Kevin suggested that a course that is towards a degree should be given higher priority. One member asked about the college’s current policy or how strict it is regarding job relatedness of the course.  Martha indicated that there is a broad interpretation of what would be considered core courses for undergraduate degrees including composition, psychology, sociology, and a few others that can be interpreted to be relevant for all jobs at the college.

Martha further explained, people use it for coursework at a variety of levels of education. Most recently it is for graduate programs. Another member shared that there are several positions at Williams that require Bachelor’s degree as a minimum qualification requirement, so it is important to encourage employees to take courses, especially towards completing a degree. This would give staff the opportunity for upward mobility at Williams, perhaps in another department.  Few members emphasized that it should not be job related, as it limits the usage of the policy.

One of the members shared that every time an employee took a course, as a supervisor, the member had to write a page of summary to indicate the job relatedness of the course as a support of justification. Another member pointed out that life skills are broader than job specific, and the courses should not be limited to job specific requirements. Council recommended removing the job-related criteria for reimbursement.

Another concern was that how much time should be allowed away from work to attend classes. The group agreed that it should be up to the supervisor’s discretion to make that decision.

Next question, the group reviewed was whether there will a limit on number of courses. The council discussed various limits on the number of courses per semester, but did not arrive a definitive conclusion.  Martha mentioned that with changing times, semesters for online courses are shorter.

The council went on to discuss whether our policy should limit the annual dollar amount reimbursed every year.   Another member suggested that if we use the cap similar to the amount of federal cap. If it is more than the cap, then it would be taxed. Kevin added that colleges probably look to accreditation as a criteria for approving courses because it provides a guarantee that tuition reimbursement is being used for quality programming.

Kevin brought up another discussion worthy question regarding whether tuition is paid up front for courses at other colleges, or after completing the course. Kevin asked about the situation where the college paid for the course up front, and the person fails the course or receives and incomplete or drops the class. DART mentioned that there is an exception to failing a class if something unforeseen happened. The council agreed to keep an exception clause in this policy in the case of not being able to meet the required grade.

 

Kevin also asked the council regarding what would be accepted grade, B or C? One member shared that B is too high a requirement; it should be C as it is an average grade

One of the members suggested that it is important to copy HR in requests to supervisors regarding tuition reimbursement, so the HR is aware of the request. Another member suggested creating a form on the HR website and that way everyone is in the loop.

Approval of October and November meeting minutes

One of the members questioned the SAC recommendation about the vacation policy as part of the October meeting. The member suggested that the SAC unanimously recommended that staff should get one additional day of vacation for each year after working for 25 years.

There was another question about clarification for the meeting minutes from November meeting minutes. The member requested further clarification about the accrual process of vacation.

 


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