In the current round of collective bargaining, ULFA seeks to rectify an inequity in the tuition benefit provision for dependents of ULFA spousal members. ULFA has sought to address this issue in the past several rounds of collective bargaining, but to date without success.
ULFA Tuition Benefit for Dependents: A Brief History
For the first eleven years of the University’s existence, the U of L Faculty Handbook, specifying terms and conditions of employment for academic staff, did not include a tuition benefit. The 1979 Handbook marked the first time a tuition benefit was included.
B.01.9 Tuition Fees [1979 Faculty Handbook]
The Board shall allow each Member, the Member’s spouse, and the Member’s dependent children, free tuition at The University of Lethbridge. An administration fee of $15 per semester course shall be charged to a maximum of $50 per student per semester.
The Tuition Fees benefit introduced in 1979 remained unchanged for eleven years before it began to erode. The 1991 Handbook restricted the tuition benefit to “credit courses,” while all other provisions remained the same. In the following year, the 1992 Handbook abolished the free tuition benefit and replaced it with an ULFA Scholarship Fund for Members and their dependents.
Schedule J. ULFA Scholarship Fund [1992 Faculty Handbook]
7. Scholarship awards will be payable to the student, less any student fees owing, in the amount of tuition and materials and services fee paid for each semester or summer session in which the grade point average for credit courses taken in the semester/session is 2.0 or better.
Three years later, the 1995 Handbook reduced the scholarship award to cover 50% of tuition and payable fees.
Schedule J. ULFA Scholarship Fund [1995 Faculty Handbook]
7. Scholarship awards shall be payable to the student, less any student fees owing, in the amount of 50% of tuition and materials and services fee paid for each semester or summer session in which the grade point average for credit courses taken in the semester/session is 2.0 or better. . . .
The ULFA Scholarship Fund for dependents remained as established in the 1995 Handbook until 2007 with some minor adjustments in the 1997 Handbook. In the 2007 Handbook, the benefit was renamed the Tuition Scholarship Fund.
In the 2010 Handbook, the Tuition Scholarship fund was renamed the Tuition Benefit and moved back to Schedule B. But more significantly, for ULFA spousal couples eligibility for the benefit was constrained:
Schedule B.01.7 Tuition Benefit [2010 Faculty Handbook]
(a) The spouse and dependents of a Member shall be entitled to a fifty per cent (50%) reduction in tuition fees . . . Where both parents are Members the tuition waiver for a dependent is additive to a maximum of fifty per cent (50%) . . .
The Tuition Benefit provisions for dependents as laid out in the 2010 Handbook have remained in place up to and including the 2018-2020 Collective Agreement with no substantive changes.
Capping the maximum tuition benefit for a dependent at 50% of tuition fees when their parents both happen to be ULFA members is a fundamental inequity. The inequity arises because on the basis of their family status, one of the ULFA spousal members is deprived of the contractually established tuition benefit for dependents which is available to all other ULFA members with dependents.
It is also unclear why the tuition benefit for dependents is capped by making the benefit additive to 50% only for ULFA spousal members when other economic benefits such as dental care coverage is not capped (and rightly so) for dependents of ULFA spousal couples.
What Do Other Universities Offer by Way of a Tuition Benefit for Dependents?
We sought to determine which English-language member institutions of Universities Canada offer a tuition benefit for dependents of academic staff. Of the 58 universities we looked at, only 7 (12%) do not offer a tuition benefit for dependents. Two universities offer tuition benefits for employees only. Five universities appear to offer no tuition benefit at all for employees.
Of the 51 universities that do offer tuition benefits for dependents,
- 26 (51%) offer 100% tuition coverage
- 3 (6%) offer between 67% and 84% tuition coverage
- 18 (35%) offer 50% tuition coverage
- 4 (8%) offer between 10% and 33% tuition coverage
Of the 25 universities that offer a tuition benefit for dependents that is less than 100% of tuition, only 5 (including the U of L) explicitly disallow faculty spouses to access the same benefit for a dependent.
ULFA’s proposal to correct the current inequity in the Schedule B tuition benefit for spousal members is essentially the same as its proposals on this issue put forward in prior rounds of bargaining. Our proposal is to remove the restriction introduced in the 2010 Handbook, which makes a dependent’s tuition benefit additive only to 50% of tuition fees where both of their parents are ULFA members.
To date the Board team has expressed no interest in discussing ULFA’s proposal to remove the additive 50% cap on spousal members’ access to the tuition benefit for dependents. The ULFA team first presented its Schedule B proposals at the February 22, 2021 negotiation session. Since that meeting, the parties have exchanged Schedule B proposals several times (an overview of all articles exchanged in this round of bargaining is available here). In each instance, ULFA’s Schedule B proposal has included the proposal to remove 50% cap on additivity for spousal members, whereas none of the Board’s Schedule B proposals have included any changes to the current provisions for the tuition benefit for dependents.