Spotlight on Benefits: Tuition Waiver

Posted: July 23, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

What better benefit is there than free education? Just ask Creative Services Project Manager Colleen Kearney Rich, MFA ’95, who financed her degree through the tuition waiver benefit at George Mason. Or August McCarthy, adjunct professor for English, who used the waiver for most of his Law School courses. Many employees have used this benefit to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees, or simply to indulge their interests and learn something new.

Those who take advantage of the offer have the Staff Senate to thank for vastly improving the benefit. In 2000, the Staff Senate partnered with university administration to increase the tuition waiver from 6 to 12 hours annually. George Mason University full-time faculty and classified staff can now enroll for credit in classes and related laboratories up to a maximum of 12 credit hours per waiver year (from mid-August through mid-August the following year). These waived credit hours can be used in any combination during the year, but may not exceed 6 credit hours in any semester or term.

Perhaps the waiver’s greatest benefit is opening the door for an undergraduate or graduate degree to people who might not otherwise be able to earn one. “Without the tuition waiver, I probably never would have gotten a master’s degree. As a single mother, I wouldn’t have been able to justify the expense,” says Kearney, who earned her MFA attending classes part-time for five years.

With such a good deal, it’s no wonder that many employees take advantage of the opportunity. Although the Student Accounts Office and the Human Resources Department do not keep any specific statistics on how many employees have taken advantage of the benefit, account representative Andy Bui says that more than 200 waivers have already been processed for this fall semester alone.

“The tuition waiver is a very good idea,” says McCarthy. “It’s a financial benefit, of course, but it also encourages faculty and staff to invest themselves more fully in the university. The school becomes more than a workplace when you’re also a student. And faculty members who take classes are more likely to understand what their students are up against. Believe me, I revised my own teaching methods when I started law school four years ago.”

Stephanie Hay, coordinator of communications for the College of Arts and Sciences, has used the waiver to further her interest in the arts. She’s taken courses in creative writing and acting, and in the fall, she will take women’s chorale. “It’s amazing that I can take these classes for free, and I am able to really enjoy the class because I’m not worried about making grades,” Hay says.

Part-time classified and wage employees and part-time faculty may also use the tuition waiver to take a limited number of credits annually. For the full policy and further information, check out the university policy online.

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