By SHANNON O. WELLS
The Senate Student Admissions, Aid and Affairs committee listened to a presentation and discussed proposed changes to Pitt’s Tuition Exchange Program during its May 18 meeting.
Review of the policy, which provides an opportunity for dependent children of eligible Pitt faculty and staff to apply for Tuition Exchange Scholarships at other participating institutions, started in 2019. A University-wide committee including members of faculty, staff, provost’s office, Human Resources, Office of Admissions & Financial Aid, and Office of Policy Development & Management took on a comprehensive policy review and discussion to ensure the revised policy supports current needs and meets regulatory requirements.
Proposed updates were a collaborative effort that was moved forward when consensus within the committee was met, said Randy McCready, Pitt’s executive director of financial aid.
Michelle Jackson, Pitt director of financial aid operations, said the Tuition Exchange Policy has been in need of updating since its implementation in 2006.
“This policy is about 16 years old, and several things are no longer relevant, which is why we have brought forward many of the changes, things that didn't exactly line up with the way that other educational benefits at the University of Pittsburgh are being processed,” she said during the meeting.
One goal of the update is to “mirror some of the ways Pitt’s educational benefit is working with the Tuition Exchange Policy. For example, the existing policy, she noted, contains a reference “that students have to be listed as an independent student on a tax return in order to be eligible for tuition exchange. Given the composition of families and how that has changed over time,” Jackson said, “a lot of that is no longer relevant or applicable to quite a few families with this route. And so that was one of the things I certainly wanted to address from a policy perspective.”
The proposal also reflects changes in terminology from the original policy, which includes a requirement that employees have at least one year of service at Pitt before they could participate in the tuition exchange program.
“And again we wanted to line that up more with what the office of benefits is doing in terms of when individuals become eligible to participate in the Pitt education benefit,” Jackson said.
Among the misconceptions the proposed policy update aims to clarify is that Pitt’s tuition exchange program is different than scholarships for other participating institutions, “where you can actually have money sent to other institutions,” Jackson explained. With tuition exchange, only those applying to participating school can take advantage of the program.
“It is not a guaranteed benefit,” she added. “That is something that's often a misconception at the University that faculty or staff will make.”
The program provides an opportunity to apply for the scholarship, with the institution being applied to making the ultimate decision on offering the scholarship or not. “For example, Duquesne University participates in the program, but Penn State University does not,” Jackson said. “So, if you say well, I want my child to go to Penn State under tuition exchange, they can't apply for it because Penn State is not a participating institution.”
Regarding limited scholarship slots, just like with Pitt, other universities being applied to through the program determine who and how many students are eligible to participate. “So it's not entitlement benefit,” Jackson said, “but an opportunity to apply for the scholarship, not participation in the scholarship program.”
Students that Pitt sends to other participating institutions are called “export students,” and dependents of faculty or staff who work at other participating tuition exchange schools looking to come to Pitt are called “import students.” Jackson said Pitt receives more than 400 applications every year for students who want to be considered as an import to the Pitt. “And we afford approximately 20 to 25 new scholarship awards every year, so that gives you an understanding of how many applications we get and how few spots we have,” she said
Tyler Tenny, policy specialist with Pitt’s Office of Policy Development & Management, said the intent of the revised policy is to “clarify how the University of Pittsburgh executes its participation in that program, aligning similar terminology with the Tuition Exchange Program’s vernacular,” he said.
The revisions have allowed a re-examination of the program itself, while providing clarity regarding annual set rates and definitions of what are import and export students, “Whereas the (current) Tuition Exchange Program policy does not have those types of clarity and definition in them,” Tenny explained.
The SAAA committee agreed to review the draft Policy on Tuition Exchange. Following a vote, it would be introduced to Faculty Assembly for its review during one of its regular meetings in the fall 2022 semester.
Here are proposed Tuition Exchange Program changes:
Allow greater flexibility to make for future procedural changes, which may come from the Tuition Exchange National Program
Clarify that the Tuition Exchange scholarship is not a guaranteed employee benefit, but rather a scholarship available to eligible dependent children of regular full-time University employees.
Consider changing the application deadline for the scholarship, which is currently set at April 1, for subsequent fall terms.
Establish scholarship preference to first-time program participants, and not limit scholarship eligibility to one child per family.
Align the definition of dependent student with other relevant University policies.
Authorize the Tuition Exchange Committee to exercise professional judgment during application reviews.
Clarify the use of Tuition Exchange for Pitt-approved study abroad programs;
Add renewal guidelines to specify that Import students must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress as defined by University Policy 09-04-02
- Align academic renewal criteria to match University merit scholarship eligibility.
Shannon O. Wells is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com.
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