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Parents Have Figured out a Way to Cut Down Tuition Costs by Working for Universities; Here's How

Parents increasingly seek employment at universities for substantial tuition discounts, addressing the soaring costs of college education in innovative ways.
Cover Image Source: Parents increasingly seek university jobs for discounted college tuition (representative image) | Getty Images | Photo by Ian Waldie
Cover Image Source: Parents increasingly seek university jobs for discounted college tuition (representative image) | Getty Images | Photo by Ian Waldie

With food prices, rent, and other expenses going up, people are coming up with side hustles or innovative hacks to overcome financial restrictions, and these are evolving into trends in the age of social media. Amidst rising costs, an increasing number of parents are seeking employment at universities to capitalize on the attractive tuition benefits offered to staff, in a bid to mitigate the exorbitant college fees for their children.

Pexels | Photo by Pixabay
Higher education (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Pixabay

Meghan Heater, 46, exemplifies this emerging trend. Employed at the University of Dayton's commissary in Ohio, Heater assembles sandwiches and prepares salads for students, combining her job with the opportunity to secure deeply discounted tuition for her children. The private Marianist Catholic college, with an undergraduate student population of around 8,000, charges approximately $47,000 per year for tuition, yet 96% of students receive some form of financial aid, per CNBC. Heater, who has been with the university for four years, will qualify for the highest tuition benefit which is a 95% reduction, by the time her eldest daughter, currently 15, graduates from high school.

The rising cost of higher education has propelled this trend with parents recognizing the financial advantages of working for a university. Jacob Channel, senior economist at LendingTree and a student aid expert, notes that these benefits have existed for years but are gaining popularity due to the escalating expenses of college. According to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, 90% of colleges and universities offer tuition benefits to children of full-time employees. However, while these programs offer significant advantages, they are not without drawbacks. Once the tuition benefit exceeds the IRS guidelines of $5,250 annually, the surplus is typically considered taxable income. Despite these considerations, the appeal of securing a substantial reduction in tuition costs has led to a notable increase in the number of parents exploring employment opportunities at universities.

Pexels | Photo by Yan Krukau
Higher education (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Yan Krukau

Sherry Kirkland, 71, who retired after a 17-year career as a financial aid and academic advisor at Wilmington University in Delaware, highlights the lack of awareness about tuition benefit programs as a potential hindrance to their popularity. Kirkland utilized the benefit for her youngest son, realizing its potential only after delving deeper into her time at the college.

The tuition benefit packages for employees' children vary widely, with some institutions offering no benefits, while others provide 100% tuition coverage. The waiting period before these benefits kick in also varies, with institutions like Southern New Hampshire University allowing new hires to take full advantage of tuition benefits for dependents after just six months. Danielle Stanton, SNHU's Chief Administrative Officer, emphasizes the need for parents to carefully consider various factors before pursuing employment at a university solely for the tuition break.

Meghan Heater's commitment to working at the University of Dayton's mess hall each morning reflects her belief in the tangible benefits of this employment strategy. With a potential savings of $500,000 in education costs for all three of her daughters, Heater sees this approach as a practical and cost-effective solution to the challenges associated with financing higher education.

As more parents explore unconventional avenues to make college education financially viable, the trend of seeking employment at universities for tuition benefits is likely to persist.