Academic Assistance Regulation 321
|Approved: Sept. 2, 2020
|UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL OF THE ARTS
Academic Assistance Regulation
|Source of Authority:
Office of State Human Resource Manual Section 9
|First Issued: Sept. 2, 2020
|Related Policies and Regulations:
|OSHR Academic Assistance Policy
|Human Resources and Budget
|Sept. 2, 2020
The purpose of the academic assistance program is for workforce planning and development of our employees. It provides a tool for managers and employees to support academic activities that directly relate to the organization’s identified knowledge, skills, and behaviors (organizational competencies), which support the mission, vision, and values of the organization. The academic assistance program is not an employee benefit, right or entitlement; it is a management program for workforce development. A grievance cannot be filed for the denial of participation in the academic assistance program except on grounds of discrimination.
Use of the academic assistance program shall be identified, described, and documented in the employees’ development plan within his/her work plan. This provides a measurable link between the employees increased competency and the agency’s workforce planning efforts.
The academic assistance program provides limited reimbursement of academic costs if funds are available at the agency level, and/or time off the job if the course is available only during working hours.
This policy applies to all permanent full-time and permanent part-time employees regularly scheduled 20 hours or more per week and probationary employees after satisfactory performance
Selective Service Registration
Selective Service Registration North Carolina General Statute 143B-421.1 requires those eligible for selective service to be registered in order to be reimbursed academic costs. The federal Selective Service law specifies that males, both US citizens and immigrant aliens residing in the US and its territories, ages 18 through 25, must register with the Selective Service.
Origination of Request
Requests for academic assistance may be initiated by the employee or management.
Employees may initiate requests for Academic Assistance to:
- Maintain/enhance current skills
- Develop new skills/competencies for career development within the agency
Management may initiate requests for academic assistance to:
- Ensure employees have mandated licensure or certification
- Address a shortage of skilled workers in specific classifications
- Develop a pool of employees for succession planning
- Build specific high priority skills
- Address performance expectations of the employee as specified on the performance management improvement plan.
The designation, “management initiated,” can only be determined with the approval of the agency head (at Departmental/University level), or designee.
Job-related degrees and corresponding non-work related courses within a degree program may be approved at the discretion of management so long as the course can be tied back to the employee’s development plan.
Academic Sources and Approved Courses
Academic courses are defined as a course/degree provided by an accredited community college, college, or university. Academic courses/degrees provided through traditional classroom, video-based, distance learning, web-based, e-learning and certain correspondence courses (see Ineligible Sources below) are eligible for approval. The course must provide academic credit (as opposed to CEUs), be listed in the college/university course catalog and charge tuition in the traditional meaning of tuition (as opposed to only registration fees). Accreditation must be via an accrediting agency authorized by the US Department of Academic. Correspondence courses not accredited by the US Department of Academic or the American Council on Academic/CREDIT for academic credit are not eligible under this policy.
Management, when making the determination whether to provide academic assistance to take a specific course, must consider the basic principle: “deemed beneficial to both the University and the employee.” Completion of the course should have a direct benefit to the University. The improved knowledge, skills and abilities gained by the employee should benefit the individual in completion of his/her current and/or potential job duties. Management should consider workforce planning, succession planning and career development in approving employees to receive academic assistance.
Guidelines to consider in course selection are:
- Courses which provide knowledge and skills directly related to maintaining or improving current job skills;
- Courses mandated by law or regulation as a job requirement for continued employment; and
- Courses directly related to the employee’s current job or a documented workforce need.
When approving courses, management must consider workforce planning in developing employees who demonstrate the ability to perform at a higher level of responsibility. Hard to recruit classifications are areas in which an employee could be approved to take courses outside his/her current classification level to meet future work needs. Examples of this are:
- Technicians working on a college degree to fill professional engineering positions; or
- Health care workers participating in a nursing program; or
- Courses included in an academic program which are necessary to complete a management approved degree program.
Academic assistance shall not be approved for courses where management has determined that neither the course nor degree is of benefit to the University.
The Director of Human Resources, may approve exceptions to the approved course policy.
Audited Courses – Academic courses which are audited are eligible for academic assistance; however an employee may be reimbursed for the same course or course equivalent only once. Reimbursement requires a statement written on school letterhead and signed by the instructor that the employee attended at least 85% of the scheduled class meetings during the academic term.
Certification/Licensing (Post-Employment) – Potential employees who meet minimum academic requirements for employment and for whom certification/licensing is required after employment or is deemed desirable by management are eligible for academic assistance under the following conditions:
- Certification/licensing is mandated or is a policy requirement of the University or hiring department.
Academic assistance is authorized for certification or licensing only if the certification or license is attained via academic course work.
An approved course should be taken on the employee’s own time. If a course can be taken only during working hours, eligible employees must request Academic Leave prior to the beginning of the course allowing sufficient time for the academic assistance request to be reviewed.
Academic Leave may be granted unless the supervisor identifies work conditions that will not permit the employee to be absent from the job. Supervisors are encouraged to develop alternate work arrangements to complete the work assignments and also grant Academic Leave. Reasonable travel time as determined by the supervisor may be permitted to attend approved courses. Management may approve Academic Leave, and, if approved, Academic Leave shall not be charged to the employee’s vacation leave.
An approved course should be taken on the employee’s own time. If a course can be taken only during working hours, eligible employees must request academic leave prior to the beginning of the course allowing sufficient time for the academic assistance request to be reviewed. A leave of absence with or without pay may be approved in compliance with the Educational Leave Policy located in Section 5 of the State Human Resources Manual.
Academic Costs – Eligible employees approved for academic assistance may be reimbursed academic costs charged by the academic source at which the employee is enrolled. Academic costs are defined as charges assessed by an academic source to every person enrolling for the course. These charges are required of everyone and are neither negotiable nor discretionary for the individual enrolling in the course. Academic costs include in-state tuition, fees and course/lab fees. Course/lab fees must always be itemized. Reimbursement of course/lab fees may require a written statement from the academic source justifying the fee as a required fee in addition to other fees.
Amount of Reimbursement – Eligible employees may be reimbursed academic costs charged by the academic source where enrolled. Departments may reimburse all academic costs as specified in the paragraph “Academic Costs,” or reimburse only tuition and other academic-related fees, but not fees unrelated to registering for a course or a degree program, such as dorm, student union construction, athletic fees, student health service, cultural event fees, etc.
Management may also, with a bona fide business justification, reduce the amount of reimbursement per employee to a set amount less than the tuition and fees and/or limit the number of courses for which any one employee may be reimbursed in an academic term.
Management choosing to reimburse an amount less than the academic costs specified in the paragraph “Academic Costs” shall make this information available to all employees at the beginning of the fiscal year and apply this limitation in a fair and equitable manner to all employees requesting academic assistance in that fiscal year. However, budgetary shortfalls do arise over the fiscal year and could prevent management from reimbursement without much notice to the employee.
Academic courses from the University of North Carolina Institutions or the Institutions of the North Carolina Community College System, eligible employees may be reimbursed for 100% of academic costs for up to 20 credit hours per fiscal year.
Academic courses from study at all academic institutions other than institutions of The University of North Carolina and Institutions of the NC Community College System, eligible employees may be reimbursed up to the maximum academic cost charged by the UNC institutions for up to 20 credit hours (or 32 quarter hours per fiscal year). This amount will be determined by the Office of State Human Resources and published within 10 working days of the adjournment of the General Assembly and the meeting of the UNC Board of Governors to approve fees.
Reimbursement of tuition and fees from out-of-state colleges/universities shall not exceed the amount as specified above.
University of North Carolina Institutions and Institutions of the North Carolina Community College System
100% of academic costs for up to 20 credit hours per fiscal year.
All academic institutions other than institutions of The University of North Carolina and institutions of the NC Community College System
Up to the maximum academic cost charged by the UNC institutions for up to 20 credit hours or 32 quarter hours per fiscal year. This amount will be determined by OSHR and published within 10 working days of the adjournment of the General Assembly and the meeting of the UNC Board of Governors to approve fees. Reimbursement of tuition and fees from out-of-state colleges/universities shall not exceed the amount as specified above.
Special Graduate Programs – Graduate professional programs (medicine, veterinary medicine, business, etc.) with unusual course/lab fees, tuition or other fees will be considered on a course by course basis. The Director of Human Resources may approve payment on these academic costs.
Non-reimbursable Expenses – Reimbursement shall NOT be made for:
- Charges specifically related to processing or receiving continuing academic units (CEUs)
- Application, examination, and graduation fees
- Transportation costs
- Textbooks and supplies
Other Financial Assistance – Financial assistance from any other financial aid program shall not be duplicated under this program. (If eligible for Tuition Waiver and/or Student Fee Waiver, the employee must apply these programs first.) However, the difference, if any, between such aid and the allowable costs under the Academic assistance program may be reimbursed.
Free Tuition - When employees of an academic institution or any other State agency are granted free tuition and non-negotiable fees, the value of this tuition and non-negotiable fees must be considered as part of the allowable academic costs.
Tax Status – Congress enacted the American Taxpayer Act of 2013 which allows an employer to offer its employees up to $5,250 in tax-free (job related and non-job-related) academic assistance for undergraduate and graduate level courses.
Requirement for Reimbursement – Management may consider any current disciplinary action for job performance or personal conduct prior to approval of the application for reimbursement.
If funds are available, the applicant shall receive reimbursement of approved academic costs upon submitting evidence of satisfactory completion of a preapproved course. Completion is defined as “Satisfactory,” “Pass,” or a grade of “C” or better for undergraduate courses, and a “B” (“P”) or better for graduate courses. An “Incomplete” shall not be reimbursed until a final grade is issued.
Requests for reimbursement must be submitted within 30 calendar days of completion of the course.
Employee Transfers and Separations - If an employee transfers to another State agency, and subsequently completes an approved course, the employee should submit a request for reimbursement to the employing agency. The employing agency is responsible for processing the request per the provisions of this policy, and providing reimbursement if funds are available. Employees who separate from State service, except by reduction in force are not eligible for reimbursement.
Thesis/Dissertation Research Courses – Job-related thesis/dissertation research courses at the masters/doctoral level are restricted as follows:
- All required written examinations for the degree shall be successfully completed before the course is approved.
- A maximum of 15 hours leave may be approved for each academic credit hour. All leave hours shall be used during the academic term and may not be accumulated.
- A maximum total of 9 academic credit hours are allowed for any one employee.
Courses Taken “At Agency Request”
Because of specific high priority skill needs of the University or department, management may require employees to take specific courses or degree programs “at agency request”. Under these circumstances, the following applies:
- All limitations under the provisions of this policy are waived. Employees are still responsible for requirements for withholding taxes and FICA.
- All expenses to the individual shall be reimbursed related to acquiring the necessary course or degree, to include: travel costs; examinations and administrative fees; textbooks and other course materials.
If courses taken “at agency request” exceed the credit hour per fiscal year limitations of the academic assistance program, then the situation shall be administered under the policy provisions for Extended Academic Leave. Not all courses specified as part of an employee’s improvement/development plan are necessarily considered to be “at agency request” unless specifically approved as such by the department head or designee and approved by the Director of Human Resources.
Reimbursement under the Academic Assistance Policy
The University allocates a fixed amount of money for this program. All eligible employees seeking reimbursement under the Academic Assistance Program must request reimbursement through this process and submit to the Office of Human Resources.
The maximum reimbursement an employee may receive for tuition expenses for coursework approved under this policy is a max of $1,000 per semester (Fall, Spring, Summer), a total of $3,000 per fiscal year. Departmental funding may be used in compliance with the guidelines from the Office of State Budget Management and Planning for courses and degrees in which tuition expenses exceeds the $3,000 per fiscal year and/or courses and degrees that are not approved under this policy.
Pre-Approval (Section I of the Academic Assistance Application)
Deadline: Academic Assistance Application must be approved prior to the start date of the course.
- Employee submits Academic Assistance Application to his/her supervisor.
- Supervisor reviews request and either approves or denies.
- The supervisor must forward the Academic Assistance Application for pre-approval to Human Resources and Budget for final approval.
- Human Resources signs the application and forward to Budget.
Employees applying for Academic Assistance must receive a written response from management regarding the approval/disapproval of academic assistance requests, which notes any changes in the application or conditions of approval. The response must also indicate whether reimbursement for the course is subject to withholding taxes or budgetary restraints.
All requests for tuition assistance are due to the Office of HR no later than Sept. 1 for fall semester, Feb.1 for spring and June 1 for summer. The Tuition Assistance Coordinator will review and notify individuals of decision.
Reimbursement (Section III of the Academic Assistance Application)
Deadline: Academic Assistance Application and all supporting documents must be submitted within 30 calendar days of completion of the course.
Employee submits Academic Assistance Application (Section I & II) to his/her supervisor and attaches the following documentation:
- Proof of completion of the course, including grade (If an audit course, the employee must provide a letter on the institution’s letterhead certifying that the employee attended at least 85% of the course sessions). Completion is defined as “Satisfactory,” “Pass,” or a grade of “C” or better for undergraduate courses, and a “B” or better for graduate classes. An incomplete will not be reimbursed until a final grade is issued.
- Receipt of course expense(s).
- Supervisor forwards all documentation to Human Resources.
- Human Resources forwards to Budget for reimbursement.
UNCSA shall be responsible for:
- Administering the program within the provisions of this policy in a fair, consistent and equitable manner.
- Designating an UNCSA coordinator to assist with the delegation and consistent implementation
of this policy throughout UNCSA.
- State Equal Employment Opportunity policies and procedures are applicable.
IV. Revision History
A. Sept. 2, 2020 - Approved by Chancellor and Cabinet