Tuition Assistance Policy

Approved by: The President and Board of Trustees
History: Issued              -- February 2002
Revised            -- June 9, 2017
Last Reviewed -- May 8, 2019
Related Policies: Categories of Employment Policy; Employment Status Policy
Additional References: The CUA Section 127 Educational Assistance Plan; Internal Revenue Code ("IRC") §152; IRS Publication 970;Questions and Answers; Tuition Exchange Guidelines
Responsible Official: Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer tel. (202) 319-5050


I. Introduction


The University encourages employees to continue to pursue educational goals and interests. To assist, the University offers three tuition assistance plans: the University's Tuition Remission Plan, the University's Tuition Exchange Plan, and the University's Section 127 Educational Assistance Plan. These plans have differing benefits and requirements as defined below.

II. Tuition Remission Plan

A. Eligibility for Undergraduate Tuition Benefits


The University's Tuition Remission Plan allows qualifying employees in good standing to take University courses free of tuition charges if certain requirements are met. The value of this employee benefit is tax free. Recipients of tuition remission must fulfill the usual conditions for admission to the University, its degree programs and/or courses. Regular full-time and regular part-time staff and faculty employees as defined in the Employment Status Policy, as well as their current spouses and dependent children, become eligible for undergraduate tuition remission benefits the first semester which begins after their hire date. The semester start date shall be the first day of undergraduate classes according to the academic calendar. If an employee leaves the University with less than one year of service for reasons other than mutual agreement, the employee will be responsible for paying the University the full amount of tuition charges incurred since their hire date for themselves, their spouse, or children.

B. Spouses and Dependent Children


The University will remit the full tuition for spouses and dependent children of eligible employees provided that the spouses or dependent children are enrolled in undergraduate degree programs at the University. Dependents are eligible to receive the tuition remission benefit only if the dependent meets and maintains the tests set forth in Internal Revenue Code ("IRC") §152 for being deemed a dependent, including but not limited to the specific age requirements contained in IRC §152(c)(3).

Applications for tuition remission for an employee's spouse or dependent child who will be attending the University full time as an undergraduate for the first time as either an entering freshman or as a transfer student are due February 15 immediately preceding the fall semester of intended enrollment. (Example: If a dependent child or spouse wishes to attend the University commencing fall semester 2018, the application for tuition remission must be received by the Human Resources Office by February 15th of 2018.) An award of tuition remission under this policy supersedes any award of financial aid by the admissions office.

C. Additional Requirements and Limitations


Tuition remission benefits are available only for undergraduate education for spouses and dependent children. An employee's spouse or dependents who otherwise qualify for benefits will cease qualifying upon earning an undergraduate degree.

Tuition remission benefits are for enrollment in courses offered by The Catholic University of America and the other member institutions of the Consortium of Universities of Washington, D.C. (when the courses are certified by the cognizant dean/department chair as required for the student's program and are not available at the University. Employees, their spouses and dependent children will be subject to the same enrollment limitations as all other students.

Tuition remission will not ordinarily be granted to employees for courses offered during the employee's normal working hours. Occasionally exceptions are made when the course is directly related to the employee's current job. When, therefore, registration for and attendance in such a course is necessary, the employee must have the prior approvals of both the immediate supervisor and the cognizant Vice President. Time taken from the normal working hours to attend such a course must be made up with a schedule subject to the same approvals. Staff members may not enroll in courses in a department or, in schools without departments, the school where they work.

Individuals who retire from University employment may use tuition remission benefits for current spouses and dependent children with the limitation that the benefit will be extended only if the spouse and dependent children were eligible at the time the employee retired and only for undergraduate programs. Retirees and their spouses may audit courses without charge, subject to the permission of the instructor of each course. Surviving spouses and dependent children of deceased employees with ten or more years of service will retain their eligibility for enrollment in undergraduate programs only. This eligibility applies for surviving spouses and dependent children even if they were not enrolled at the time of the employee's death. Tuition remission will be extended to a surviving spouse and dependent children of a deceased employee with fewer than ten years of service at the time of death only for undergraduate programs in which they are already enrolled at the time of the employee's death. To be eligible for this benefit, dependent children must retain their dependent status with the surviving parent or guardian*.

Approval of tuition remission for a dependent child is contingent upon proof of dependent status. The University reserves the right to request appropriate proof before approving any application for tuition remission for a dependent. Employees are required to provide proof of birth or adoption or the required information on dependent status of a stepchild with the first application for tuition remission for a dependent child.

D. Special Note Regarding Overseas Study


A number of educational programs can be enriched by participation in overseas study programs sponsored or approved by the University. Employees' spouses and dependent children who are eligible for tuition remission and who have the opportunity to participate in a University-sponsored or approved overseas study program will be granted tuition remission for the University portion of their tuition. All expenses billed to the University including the tuition, fees, room and board for the overseas study program will be the responsibility of the student. The University reserves the right to charge an administrative fee for overseas study if, in the discretion of the University, it is necessary. The University tuition is the only part of the cost of the overseas study program that is included in the tuition remission benefit. 

III. Tuition Exchange

A. Introduction


The University's Tuition Exchange Program allows University employees to apply their tuition remission benefit for their college-age dependent children at other colleges or universities in the National Tuition Exchange.

B. Policy


The University will award scholarships for full-time undergraduate study at a participating University as set forth in the University Tuition Exchange Program Guidelines. The Guidelines limit the program to children of regular full-time employees of the University who have worked full-time for at least two continuous years prior to the commencement of the academic year for which the eligible student dependent would initiate his/her studies.

Awards are made for one academic year at a time. College age children of University employees must plan to enroll or attend institutions participating in the National Tuition Exchange one year before the academic year in which they will begin school. For example, if a University employee's college-aged dependent child wishes to attend a college or university in the NTEA starting in the fall semester of 2020, the University employee would have to apply for the tuition exchange scholarship by October 1st of 2019.

The requirements and limitations that apply to undergraduate tuition remission at the University also apply to tuition exchange. Note, however, that in very limited instances a participating National Tuition Exchange school might offer a professional/graduate level opportunity that is coupled with an undergraduate program and that under such limited instances the participating school might consider tuition exchange for that professional/graduate level opportunity. In such limited instances the University will submit the tuition exchange application for an eligible University dependent child for consideration by the respective school.

It is permissible for a qualifying employee to apply for his or her dependent child for both tuition remission and tuition exchange benefits and the dependent child select one or the other once the results of his or her application process are available.

A University employee's spouse or dependent child who is also a regular employee of the University is not eligible for tuition assistance as a dependent. That person will have eligibility for tuition assistance by virtue of their employment at the University and is subject to the policy limitations for employees.

IV. Section 127 Plan


Whereas tuition remission benefits are available primarily for undergraduate education, the University adopted a Section 127 Plan as a way to provide tax free tuition benefits to employees taking graduate courses. The "Section 127" in the Plan's name comes from section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code which sets forth conditions and limitations and apply for such benefits to be nontaxable.

Section 127 makes it possible for employers (not just educational institutions) to provide up to $5,250 per year to their employees in tax-free reimbursement for tuition, books, fees, supplies and equipment for job or non-job related education as part of a "qualified educational assistance program." The exclusion from income is not allowed for supplies (other than textbooks) that the employee can retain after the course is over, or for meals lodging or transportation. Courses in games, hobbies or sports not related to the employer's business are not covered. (A sports coach, for example, would be able to exclude a course on that particular sport.) Also, unlike Tuition Remission and Tuition Exchange Benefits, this benefit is available only to the University's employees (including retired and disabled employees), and is specifically not available for the employee's spouse or children.

While the limitation of the benefit to $5,250 per year makes this benefit less appealing than Tuition Remission benefits for undergraduate education, the fact that the Section 127 benefit is available for graduate education will make it uniquely appealing for employees who already have their undergraduate degree.

Regular full-time and regular part-time employees as well as faculty members become eligible for the section 127 tuition the semester following their hire date.

Eligible employees who enroll in any of the schools of the University may receive tuition assistance for no more than the lesser of 2 courses per semester or 4 courses per academic year. Eligible employees enrolled in specific Metropolitan School of Professional Studies graduate programs are eligible to take six courses a year, two each semester, the summer session is considered one semester. This benefit is pro-rated for regular part-time employees. The amount of tuition assistance offered to part-time employees is pro-rated based on the number of hours the employee works.

Temporary employees and part time employees who work fewer than 20 hours a week are not eligible for tuition assistance. Receipt of tuition assistance benefits is contingent upon continued employment for the entire semester or summer session for which tuition assistance was approved. In the event that an employee retires, terminates as a result of a reduction in force, or is approved for long-term disability during a semester or summer session for which tuition assistance was approved, his/her tuition assistance benefits will be continued through the end of the semester or summer session. If an employee receiving tuition assistance benefits terminates employment before the completion of a semester, for any reason other than retirement, reduction in force, or long term disability, tuition assistance benefits will be revoked and the employee will be responsible for paying the University the full amount of tuition charges for the semester. Also, if an employee with less than one year of service leaves employment for reasons other than mutual agreement, the employee will be responsible for paying the University the full amount of tuition charges incurred since their hire date.

A tax-free tuition reduction is also available to a former employee who retired or left on disability.

Employee tuition assistance benefits may not be combined with other University scholarship or University grant funds. Section 127 Plan benefits do not cover fees, books, tools or supplies. 

V. University Authority


The University reserves the right to amend or terminate any and all plans and programs discussed herein. The University reserves the right to interpret the terms and conditions of all said plans and programs and to make decisions regarding eligibility and benefits. The University's decisions shall be final unless specifically appealable by the terms of the plan. If there shall be any dispute between the terms and conditions of this Policy and the terms and conditions of the plans, the terms and conditions of the plans shall prevail.

VI. Administration


Applicants for tuition assistance benefits under this policy are responsible for contacting the Office of Human Resources (tel. 202-319-5050) to complete necessary forms.


*This benefit may be taxable income to the surviving spouse. He or she is advised to consult his/her tax attorney.