Back to School — But This Time It’s (Almost) Free
With tuition remission, BU employees earn degrees at a fraction of the cost
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 email@example.com.