Revised: January 3, 2013

I. Background

This policy paper outlines Educational Assistance policy of the University of Wisconsin System. It describes fee/tuition reimbursement policies for course work and training undertaken by faculty and staff within the UW System. It does not apply to employer-directed course work or training, approved course work or training under the faculty or academic staff professional development programs covered in UW System Administrative Policy 155 (SYS 155), Faculty Development and Renewal – The 1970’s and Beyond; UW System Administrative Policy 156 (SYS 156), Guidelines for Faculty Retraining, Renewal, and Development; UW System Administrative Policy 157 (SYS 157), Faculty Development and Renewal – A System Policy for Faculty Transfer and Exchange; UW System Administrative Policy 160 (SYS 160), The Faculty Sabbatical Program; 160.A (SYS 160.A), Sabbatical Guidelines; and UW System Administrative Policy 160.B (SYS 160.B), Sabbatical Leave Agreement Form or employer-directed meetings, conferences, and workshops, i.e., training which is paid directly by the employer.

II. Constraints

In addition to the policies and procedures set forth in this paper, reimbursement for course work and training is subject to the following rules and regulations:

III. Definitions

Educational assistance shall be defined as follows:

  • Job Related – Credit and noncredit, undergraduate or graduate level noncredit or training that is required by the University, or by law or regulations, to maintain salary, status, or current position (if the requirements serve a business purpose of the University), or taken to maintain or improve skills required in the employee’s present work.
  • Career Related – Undergraduate and graduate level courses and professional development courses which will qualify an employee for advancement. Courses for personal enrichment do not qualify.

Appointing Authority – An officer, commission, board, or body having power of appointment to, or removal from, subordinate positions in any office, department, commission, board, or institution.

IV. Policy

  1. It is the policy of the University of Wisconsin System to promote continuing education of employees. Employees may be reimbursed for authorized education and training within the constraints listed above and within budget constraints. An unclassified employee must have a half-time or greater appointment and a classified employee must have a permanent or project appointment to be eligible for reimbursement. Limited term employees, employees in training and student help are not eligible. Bargaining agreements for Represented Classified Staff may supersede some of the language in this policy.
  2. Management’s decision to authorize educational assistance should be based on the determination that successful completion of the course will be beneficial to both the University and the employee in terms of increased knowledge, abilities, and skills. Examples of courses which are deemed to benefit both the University and the employee include:
    • courses which provide knowledge and skills directly related to maintaining or improving current job skills;
    • courses mandated by law or regulation in order for the employee to retain the job;
    • courses directly related to the profession in which the employee is currently working, current classification, or classification series;
    •  courses which provide for career development within the University, including those which are a necessary elective for completion of such degree.

    Assistance may be denied in cases where management determines that neither the course nor the degree pursued is of sufficient benefit to the UW.

  3. Course work may be taken at any state accredited public or private higher educational institution or WTCS district institution. Course work at UW System institutions is encouraged. Reimbursement for course work taken at private institutions should be limited to the rate of an equivalent course at the home institution.
  4. Requests for reimbursement for the cost of course work or training are initiated by the employee through the appointing authority. A Request for Authorization to Reimburse Employee's Fees/Tuition Form pdf must be completed and approved prior to the beginning of the course work or training. Normally, course work is taken on an employee’s own time. If the employer determines that the needed course work is available only during the employee’s scheduled hours of service, a program of proportional compensatory time may be arranged, provided normal services of the employing unit are not disrupted or impaired. No more than one course, up to five credits, or a training equivalent in any academic term (e.g., a semester, summer session, or an equivalent) should be reimbursed. Additional course work may be authorized by the chancellor or designee.
  5. Tuition and fees shall be reimbursed only upon successful completion of the course if the employee is still employed at the institution. Books, supplies, and travel costs are not reimbursable. If an employee changes jobs within an institution prior to completion of an authorized course, s/he must notify the new appointing authority of the authorization. Segregated fees may be reimbursed or waived. Any financial aid received by the employee for tuition and fees shall be taken into account when determining the amount to be reimbursed. The following three items must be submitted when requesting reimbursement:
    1. A completed Request for Authorization to Reimburse Employee's Fees/Tuition Form pdf or its equivalent (approved prior to beginning of classes).
    2. A fee receipt or other satisfactory evidence of having paid reimbursable fees.
    3. Evidence of successful completion of the course work or training (grade report or certification of completion, etc.).

    Requests for reimbursement which do not include all of the above requirements shall be denied.

  6. The taxability of reimbursements is subject to the existing provisions of Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code. Employees should be advised to obtain tax counsel as to the reportability and deductibility of educational expense reimbursements. Generally, educational expenses qualifying as job related are not reportable by the University as income to the employee. Educational expenses reportable by the University as income to the employee may result in tax withholding on employee paychecks.
  7. Institutions are encouraged to establish mechanisms which will ensure equitable distribution of opportunity for educational assistance.