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August 29, 2002

Gay adoption ruling = tuition benefits for employees' dependents

Thanks to the state Supreme Court, some gay and lesbian Pitt employees now have an additional fringe benefit: Tuition remission for their dependent children.

The court ruled last week that gays and lesbians in Pennsylvania may adopt the children of their partners. If such a child is a dependent of a qualified Pitt employee and gains admittance to the University, he or she will qualify for Pitt tuition benefits.

Robert Hill, Pitt vice chancellor for Public Affairs, said: "It doesn't matter who your partner is — if you're a Pitt employee and you adopt a child who becomes your legal dependent, that child would be eligible" for benefits that the University offers to dependent children of its faculty and staff.

Pitt officials said they don't know how many students might end up attending the University as dependents of gay and lesbian employees. "I don't know that we would have any way of finding out that number," said Nancy Gilkes, Pitt manager of Compensation and Benefits.

At last count, some 20 employees had registered with Pitt to receive benefits already offered here to same-sex domestic partners, including tuition benefits and library privileges. "But there's no way of telling how many children those and other gay and lesbian [Pitt] employees have," said Pittsburgh attorney Christine Biancheria, who led the legal effort to permit adoptions by same-sex partners in Pennsylvania. (Biancheria also was among the ACLU lawyers who represented plaintiffs in the lawsuit — currently suspended — by current and former University employees seeking Pitt medical benefits for same-sex partners here.) Dependent children of regular full-time staff and full-time faculty, faculty librarians, ROTC faculty and research associates are eligible for scholarships covering full undergraduate tuition at Pitt for a maximum of 12 terms of study toward a first baccalaureate degree.

"If that child is on your income tax Form 1040 as a dependent, then they would be eligible" for tuition remission, said Gilkes.

Proportionate tuition scholarships are offered to children of tenured part-time faculty and part-time, tenure stream faculty, as well as some part-time faculty librarians.

In addition, dependent children of full-time faculty and regular full-time staff with at least one year of University service may apply to participate in the Tuition Exchange Scholarship Program. The program involves some 350 U.S. colleges and universities whose employees may send their dependent children to any other Tuition Exchange school at significant cost reduction or no tuition charge. Nearly 40 Pennsylvania institutions participate in the program, including Pitt.

Dependent children of staff and faculty who were hired before September 1994 and who meet certain service and salary criteria also qualify for Pitt scholarships to attend other universities.

Staff education benefits are described in detail in Pitt's Staff Handbook, available online at: Education benefits for faculty are detailed in the Faculty Handbook, at:

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 1

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