WU employees may lose assistance for grad. courses

Expiration of tax code would turn assistance into taxable income

| Contributing Reporter

A change in the federal tax code may impede Washington University faculty and staff from taking graduate courses.

The University provides tuition assistance to encourage employees to pursue continuing education opportunities. Though some employees choose to take job-related courses, more of them favor other courses. Under Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), which is set to expire on Dec. 31, the University can offer $5,250 of tax-free tuition assistance for these courses.

If the code is not renewed, however, all tuition assistance for non-job-related education would be taxable, which may influence employees’ decisions to enroll in graduate courses.

A number of Washington University faculty are currently taking non-job-related classes or even pursuing degree programs.

Jami Ake, a senior lecturer and assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, is graduating this winter from the Geroge Warren Brown School of Social Work with a master’s degree. Ake will be instructing undergraduate courses on Women and Gender Studies next semester, as she has done for several years, and she is also the adviser for S.A.R.A.H (Sexual Assault & Rape Anonymous Hotline).

Though the graduate courses she has been taking are not considered job-related, Ake strongly believes that her concentration on violence against women in her master’s program will strengthen her teaching and advising.

“I can help my students see what it’s like in other graduate schools and give them vision for community organizing and programming,” Ake said.

Besides Ake, many University faculty members have also pursued professional degrees in other programs, such as the Master of Business Administration in the business school.

The change in the IRC is expected to affect Washington University staff members to a greater degree than it will affect faculty members.

“There could be University College students impacted by this issue,” said Brent Jenson, the director of administration in University College. “And we have notified them of the change.”

Staff members have a lower average income and usually have less flexible schedules than faculty.

Since the change is not effective until the next calendar year, neither the Department of Human Resources nor University College know how much employees will be discouraged from taking graduate courses.

The changes in funding are not going to impact the tuition assistance for job-related or undergraduate courses.

Additionally, the payroll department will spread taxation of the tuition assistance money over multiple pay periods to help individuals better cover the added cost.

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