Why Tuition Remission?

Teachers and administrators who are parents of independent school-aged children obviously love tuition remission, which means a tax-free subsidized education for their children in the school where they work. Schools may also pay tuition at other equivalent institutions for their staff children if they so wish.

Lately, a number of schools have considered cutting tuition remission as a way of saving money. Some seek to eliminate it, others to curtail it. Few are introducing or expanding it. Critics of tuition remission claim that it is a discriminatory benefit and that it places an extra burden on nonfaculty parents who have to make up the difference. At worst, they say, it subsidizes certain well-to-do teachers who could easily foot the bill. But despite these concerns, the case for tuition remission remains compelling.

From the institutional viewpoint tuition remission has only one purpose: to attract and hold the strongest possible full-time teachers and administrators who are also parents. While some of our greatest educators are and have been childless, and while schools need the talent and commitment of childless adults, they require also a critical mass of professional staff with the experience of parenthood. Especially in a time of family disintegration, it is important to have strong, committed parents among those who work with our children.

The difference between tuition remission and financial aid is that the former is automatic, no questions asked. Professional staff members with children are spared the indignity of baring their financial souls to insider committees and school heads who will decide if they qualify. More important, their standard of living is left intact, and they are not penalized for having children, without whom there would be no schools. Assuming salary equity for all teachers and administrators, tuition remission may be seen not as a benefit, but as a means of maintaining equal spendable income for staff with and without children.

As for subsidizing rich faculty members, not only is the condition comparatively rare, but such people may be asked frankly if they would consider waiving their right. Some may also be moved to contribute generously to capital campaigns or annual giving. If nonfaculty parents complain, they may be asked if they would prefer weaker teachers or a school in which no staff member had school-age children. Finally, tuition remission is one of the last benefits left that is unambiguously tax free and easy to administer. Schools should think extremely carefully before abandoning or curtailing it. Those without it may even consider its introduction.

Source: www.nais.org. Author: Frederick C. Calder, Executive Director, NYSAIS. Originally published by NYSAIS, in NYSAIS Bulletin, #186, March ‘94. Reprinted with permission. · Modified by NAIS, April, 2002.