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Back to School — But This Time It’s (Almost) Free

With tuition remission, BU employees earn degrees at a fraction of the cost

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Ryan Bersani (CAS’06, COM’11), the new media coordinator for the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, is working toward his master’s in public relations at the College of Communication.

Georgia Balafas (COM’98, MET’08) earned her master’s degree in administrative studies at Metropolitan College while working full-time as the director of campus information and visitor relations — a feat that she admits wasn’t quite what she remembered from her undergraduate days. “It’s not like you can stay up all night to study, and then sleep the next day,” she says.

Still, Balafas has no regrets about taking on the extra workload — particularly because, as a BU employee, she received a tuition remission benefit, and earned the degree for a fraction of the normal cost. She estimates she spent about $1,600 on tuition, whereas a non-BU employee would have spent $32,640.

“I felt it was such a great benefit of working at BU,” she says. “It was almost a shame not to take advantage of the program.”

The University offers regular full-time employees who have worked at BU for at least nine months free or reduced tuition, known as tuition remission. More than 800 employees took advantage of this program in the spring 2008 semester. While some may take a class to try a new hobby, others choose to work towards a degree. The savings are substantial — most graduate-level courses start at $680 per credit, and the tuition remission benefit covers up to eight class credits – 100 percent of the first four credits and 90 percent of four additional credits.

Ryan Bersani (CAS’06, COM’11), the new media coordinator for the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, was able to put his undergraduate degree in mathematics to unexpected use when he began his master’s in public relations at the College of Communication. “I didn’t have a sense of direction with the math degree, and I knew I wanted to study something else,” he says.

Bersani, who had interned for the Boston Bruins and Boston Globe, spoke with Ed Downes, an associate professor of mass communications who showed him it was possible to combine his undergraduate math degree with a graduate PR degree. He was surprised to learn that PR could be applied to market research, working with statistics, surveys, or focus groups. Now, he uses his coursework every day at work. “The program has shown me how to communicate messages to different publics,” he says. “I take advantage of this knowledge when interacting with BU alumni.”

Employees don’t receive a free ride: they cover the costs of fees and books, and the tuition remission program does not include classes offered online, through executive graduate programs, or at the School of Medicine and School of Dental Medicine. The first $5,250 of tuition remission benefit for graduate courses in the calendar year is exempt from taxation, but any benefit after that is taxed. And employees must get permission from their supervisors to take classes that meet during the day. Both Bersani and Balafas say their bosses were understanding of them earning their degrees, and they say that their course work helped them become better at their jobs. “I can now edit e-mails that my department sends out, make updates to our Web site, and write content for the site,” Bersani says. “Going back to school has definitely helped.”

“But make sure you plan ahead,” he says. “A semester is 13 weeks. You’ll have homework assignments, class, and your job.”

“The toughest part was that some classes can be three hours, and that’s a long day,” adds Balafas. “So bring a lunch and a dinner. Plan ahead, and you’ll be OK.”

To take advantage of the program, employees should apply and register for the class through the Registrar’s Office, and then apply for tuition remission before the deadline. Classes for the spring semester begin January 14. For more information about the program, click here.

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

26 Comments

26 Comments on Back to School — But This Time It’s (Almost) Free

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 6:13 am

    Wrong Audience for this Type of Article

    I think that the BU all-student newsletter is the wrong forum for this type of article. I would suggest that the BU employee newsletter is the proper place. While I’m happy that Georgia and Ryan are able to attend BU MET “almost free”, the reality is that most MET students are not BU employees. We are responsible for the entire $32k+ tuition ourselves.

    In 2007 I made the decision to pursue a MS degree at BU MET to help me compete in the global IT marketplace. My BU MET education has helped me tremendously, having improved both my technical and non-technical skills. Advanced degrees are almost a requirement for mid and upper-level IT jobs these days. We now compete with talented IT workers in Russia, India, China, and other countries, many of whom hold advanced degrees from American universities.

    When the economy turned towards recession last year the first thing many employers cut was employee benefits. For many of us this meant the end of tuition reimbursement and 401k matching, increased health insurance premiums, and months of unpaid furloughs. Still, I consider myself very lucky that I still have a job while many of my friends and co-workers are unemployed.

    The reality of the situation is that when I graduate from BU MET in May, I must begin to pay back that $32k+ in tuition I financed through student loans. That is not going to be an easy task. However, I feel that mu BU MET education was well worth the cost, and I have no regrets choosing to pursue my Master’s degree. I feel that posting a story like this to the all-student newsletter is a slap in the face to the many BU students who are not BU employees and not eligible for the tuition remission program.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 7:21 am

    No tuition remission for online courses?

    What is the rationale for this? Seems arbitrary.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 8:23 am

    Clarification

    Hi, some minor clarification: According to the BU Human Resources website, a full-time employee becomes eligible for the tuition remission benefit

    “on the first day of the semester on or following your date of hire.”

    Also, according to the BU Human Resources website, there are additional restrictions on what courses and programs qualify for the tuition remission benefit. For a complete listing of courses not covered, please visit the BU HR website at:

    http://www.bu.edu/hr/bu_benefits/plans/tuition/courses.shtml

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 8:55 am

    What about us?

    It is wonderful that employee’s get a remission but the economy is bad on us all and for those who are doing the distance program so that we can still work to make a living really need it the most. The amount I owe in student loans is terrible and for a single mother trying to remain competitive in the field so that she can provide for her children by going to school is also struggling like no one could ever believe. I am just horrified at what I am going to have to pay monthly in student loans when I finish so it hurts me to read this article and the difference in tuition when I am paying such high prices. I hope that there will eventually be some relief for us, the individuals that have to do a distance program because we have to work one if not two jobs to make it and this post-graduate program is not offered where it would be available to me to take at a cheaper price. I value this program and am so thankful that I am in it, I just hope the distance program students are eventually thought about soon because we are also struggling just to advance in our careers. I have not been able to get any grants just student loans so I don’t know what I will be facing after graduation but that is something I will have to figure out soon. Thank you.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 10:02 am

    Wrong timing as well

    My feelings on this article is just like the poster above who wrote that this article is being viewed by the wrong audience. Since BU is in the middle of a hiring freeze, many students in graduate programs who are trying to take advantage of the tuition remission program now cannot. While I’m happy for the students who are already able to benefit from this program, it does feel like a slap in the face for those of us who cannot due to the hiring freeze, and who are now faced with the reality of a $70-80K debt when we graduate from a two-year program.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 10:22 am

    Wow. Thanks BU for rubbing in that I have to pay thousands of dollars for my education while employees only spend toilet paper money.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 10:39 am

    BU Today isn't an "all-student newsletter"

    “BU Today, the news and information Web site of Boston University, is published by the office of Marketing and Communications…”

    I feel for anyone who has to shoulder the burden of the cost of a BU education, but making an argument with a flawed fundamental premise is not something taught at BU.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 11:05 am

    I agree: Wrong Audience.

    Why would you do this article? Do you know what it is like to have to pay full tuition? In my case, I had to pick up a second part-time job to make up for time missed at my primary occupation.

    How about offering more grants and scholarships to accomplished MET students, instead of giving employees a free ride? What happened to rewarding students who work hard and keep their GPAs up?
    After all, hard work and academic excellence should be rewarded, not belonging to the BROTHERHOOD.

    Author’s next article:”The Joys of Carribean Time-Share Ownership: A Message to Gazans”
    …Probably the wrong audience, as well.
    Now excuse me, I have to take out $5,000 in loans.
    CHEERS!

  • Rut Franklin on 01.07.2009 at 12:04 pm

    Applaud BU & employees

    Many companies offer full or partial education costs reimbursement as a company benefit. In my opinion a company that seeks to improve employee assets in this manner is a healthy company. Therefore I am surprised that BU has just begun to offer this employee benefit.

    My company offered 80% reimbursement until last summer when sales began to fall off at which point they cancelled the program. Then at Christmas time they began lay-offs. As they decided to abandon research and development I no longer have a job. I have three classes remaining toward my MSPM degree so I’ll now have to come up with the funds without any income flowing in.

    Still, I applaud BU for awarding their employees in this bleak economic climate.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 12:08 pm

    A little perspective

    Let’s have a little perspective here. To even become a BU instructor (or university instructor anywhere), the individual has already earned advanced degrees (at least a Bachelors and a Masters), which they paid for in full (or are going to be paying for, for the rest of their lives!). They put in their money already just to become an employee with their earned degree(s). Considering the low salary teachers make, in general, it’s considered a part of their employee benefits, just like any other company offers benefits for their employees. I say, if they want to earn another degree, they should be able to, especially since they worked really hard to land a university position to begin with!

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 12:10 pm

    I must say I agree with those posters who have stated that the timing of this piece is unfortunate. Because of the hiring freeze, only those who currently work for BU will be able take advantage of tuition remission in the foreseeable future. Instead of thinking, “Hmmm…perhaps I too might earn a degree while working for BU,” those readers who are not university employees are left feeling shut out and perhaps, as is evident in the other postings, a bit angry.

    I would love to see the university take some small steps to help the tuition-paying students (e.g. waiving late fees) and for BU Today cover those efforts.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 12:13 pm

    Cry me a River

    Come on people…..I really do understand that this newsletter is a slap in the face for many BU students. At the same time, everyone that do attend Grad School especially at BU knows and realize the financial debt/burden he or she might face after graduation. My point, the cost of your grad school degree at BU is less to how much your degree is worth which is a LOT. Besides everyone that’s upset right now about this article would have definately done the same thing the BU employee are doing, taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the university.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 12:16 pm

    ONE-SIDED!

    They fail to tell you that you CANNOT AFFORD to live on the resulting paycheck since your tuition is sucked from your paycheck. It is impossible. I made more working undergrad as work study 10 hours a week than what I take home after 40 hours now. They also tax you on the tuition so it looks like you made the tuition plus your full salary on tax forms. So beware, there is way more to it.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 12:21 pm

    In favor of tuition remission...

    Getting a degree through tuition remission is by no means a piece of cake. Your main duty as a BU employee is to work – many degree programs require classes that are only offered during the day, and in this case, it’s impossible to take those classes. Being a part-time student and working 40 hours a week while attending class 6-8 hours a week and doing all the required reading and paper writing isn’t easy for anyone, whether you’re paying full price or not. Time wise, it’s only possible to take 2 classes at most per semester. The program I am in was designed to be done full-time in a year, but I’m still plodding away after 6 semesters and sitting in classes with multiple cohorts of students who were able to be on their way after they completed the program. I consider it a luxury to be able to devote all of one’s time time and effort to school, whether it’s paid for by parents, a trust fund, or unfortunately, student loans.

    Most colleges and universities offer some kind of tuition break to employees. This was my main selection criterion when looking for a job after I graduated from college. It took a year of interviewing at places like Suffolk, Northeastern, and BC until I finally got a job with BU, where I could get a break on tuition fees I could never hope to pay, having carried $60K in debt from my first degree. I feel like I have watched all my friends go on to bigger and better things and that I’ve been at this forever, but for me, tuition remission was the only possible way I could have ever gone back to school.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 12:25 pm

    tuition remission= no paycheck

    the down side is you don’t make enough money to live. while you are being paid for full time work, the tuition is taxed and dwindles your paycheck down to zilch. Seriously, it is not enough to make rent, let alone eat or maybe buy toothpaste and pay a bill occasionally.

  • ... on 01.07.2009 at 1:15 pm

    Freaking work full time and you’ll get the benefit’s too.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 2:11 pm

    The belly-aching in these postings from BU employees benefiting grandly, yes, grandly, from this generous program is outrageous. They need a griip on a reality: the “many companies” that offer tuition support are not so “many” anymore, as companies not closing their doors seek to cut costs in other ways. When tuition support is offered, it is most often only with tight strings attached (such as the courses must relate to the employee’s current job/field). With unemployment where it is now, BU could easily fill its openings without offering this expensive benefit. And those of us who get no remission, thereby subsidizing the freebies, might see lower tuition increases as a result, or better access to classes that fill quickly. Enough with the moaning about how what is actually a grand gift is insufficient.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 2:50 pm

    Perspective

    I thought this was a nice human interest story about tuition remission for BU employees. Then I read the comments from all the whiners. That’s too bad that you aren’t one of the fortunate ones to be eligible for tuition remission, but the “sour grapes” attitude from all (most) of you is incredible. It’s possible to read many articles every day about people who get something you don’t. Life doesn’t give everyone the same breaks, so you need get over it and move on.

    Or – find a job that pays some of your tuition. It’s called an employee benefit and not everyone offers the same benefits.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 4:17 pm

    Ignorance

    I cannot speak on behalf of all BU employees, however speaking for myself, when looking for a job I specifically applied to Universities as I know that tuition remission is a huge employee benefit. I don’t feel that it can be considered "unfair" to speak openly about this as everyone has choices to where they seek out employment. If you wanted to go to Grad School, but did not want to pay for it…well there are options out there and you should have considered them. Acting like this the first time you have been made aware that employees here have this benefit is ignorant and tearing this article and its writer apart is juvenile.

  • Anonymous on 01.07.2009 at 8:02 pm

    Think about this

    If you work at the Gap or another clothing store, you get a discount on the clothes. If you work for a car company, you get a discount on the cars. BU’s business is education, and that’s the discounted benefit they offer their employees. It’s a great benefit and it definitely attracts people to work here.

  • Michelle on 01.08.2009 at 2:38 pm

    Audience and timing are fine

    I am a full time BU employee who will be getting tuition remission, and I see nothing wrong with this articles timing or audience. Many universities in the area do this, and it is not a big shocker or even close to a new program–tuition remission has been around for a LONG LONG time.

    Instead of blaming this article and the people who take advantage of this program, perhaps you should blame yourself for not having thought ahead before you pursued your incredibly expensive graduate degree.

    I graduated this spring and immediately looked for a job within BU BECAUSE of the tuition remission program. I am now a happy employee with an admittedly small paycheck, but a practically free (future) graduate degree.

    And just for the record, don’t act like BU employees are undeserving of this program. I am VERY hardworking–I put in OVER 60 hours a week to do a full-time job AND 2 courses per semester. I also get all A’s. You non-employees CHOSE to get the expensive degree without being concerned about the cost–why should you be mad at people who actually did think about the cost first?

  • Anonymous on 01.09.2009 at 10:26 am

    To all defending this article: GET A LIFE!!!

    So you’re getting a HAND-OUT from the university. Just score things by their proper name, HAND-OUT.

    You’re not getting because of the hardwork you do or your grades. Maybe you do well in school, but that is not why you’re getting it.

    Most people are rightfully mad because there are little to no scholarships for other students, especially at MET. If you guys knew what you were talking about, which you do not, then you would know the reason for everyone’s frustration.

    Just thought I would give you this info. since you’re used to having things given to you all.

    So if you want to defend this article, please do some reading or research on the matter. Don’t wait for “FACT HAND-OUT.”

  • Anonymous on 01.09.2009 at 10:30 am

    The GAP? Are you nuts?

    You’re comparing clothes at the GAP with BU tuition?

    Are you from this planet?

    Let me guess….
    You’re in political science, right?
    Good luck.

  • Anonymous on 01.09.2009 at 2:03 pm

    Re: To all defending this article: GET A LIFE!!!

    You are bitter for absolutely no other reason but pure jealousy. Yes, it is a “handout”–one rightfully EARNED by employees having the smarts to look for a job within a university like BU (and Tufts, and Harvard, and UCONN, and…etc etc etc). And now we are reaping the benefits of a good employment situation. We are getting it as a known, long-existing benefit given to all BU employees–something that compensates for the shitty paycheck.

    And as for “Most people are rightfully mad because there are little to no scholarships for other students, especially at MET” — as if this is a reason to be “rightfully mad.” Here’s a thought:
    A. Go somewhere cheaper
    B. Work for BU
    C. Maybe you didn’t deserve a scholarship?

    Perhaps you should have done some research on the matter, before you came on here to b*tch about the unfairness of life.

  • Anonymous on 01.09.2009 at 9:25 pm

    RE:RE: To all defending this article: GET A LIFE!!!

    I’m not bitter, I am just not delusional like the people defending this article’s subject, timing, and audience.

    If you do not like the lousy pay of the University, then quit go somewhere else. But, by your own admission, your prostituting your professional ability to get a HANDOUT. Why should I be happy for a sell-out like you.

    So thanks for admitting that you’re part of the problem.
    You’re probably no stranger to the welfare system either if you think this is in anyway fair and up to standards of academic ethics.

    Go to the BU MET site and look up the anemic amount of scholarships available and the outlandish criteria that nobody fits into.
    That’s only if BU paid for your ability to read and understand the full situation. Otherwise, use that discounted tuition to get a CLUE.

    As far as being jealous, not at all. If I worked for BU, I would use it too, but it is still wrong and I would at least admit it and move on rather than defend it like you. Must be the guilt you feel.

  • Anonymous on 01.14.2009 at 8:31 pm

    “They also tax you on the tuition”

    The “they” in this sentence is not Boston University. The IRS considers any remission benefit for graduate level courses additional taxable income. Therefore it is taken out of your paycheck as regular taxes are. Yes, it decreases your net pay but consider how much more you would be paying if you had to shoulder the load of 100% of the tuition.

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