Professional Development and Educational Opportunities
UPPS No. 04.04.35
Issue No. 3
Effective Date: 4/20/2017
Next Review Date: 10/01/2020 (E3Y)
Sr. Reviewer: Assistant Vice President for Human Resources
* This document establishes the policies and procedures for four Texas State University-sponsored opportunity programs for faculty and staff education and training: 1) academic professional development activities, 2) non-academic professional development activities, 3) the Staff Educational Development Program, and 4) university support for GED certification attainment.
Texas State is committed to supporting and providing professional development opportunities under these programs to update the skills and knowledge of its faculty and staff to better prepare them to meet the teaching and workplace challenges of the future.
The purpose of providing professional development and educational opportunities is to:
carry out the university’s commitment to increase the skills of the university workforce;
provide additional academic opportunities for employees that will foster their professional and personal growth;
develop a pool of skilled applicants for potential promotion;
retain the current workforce; and
serve as a recruiting incentive to prospective faculty and staff employees.
PROCEDURES FOR ACADEMIC PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES
The provisions of this section meet the requirements of the State Employees Training Act of 1969, as amended.
An academic professional development activity is the enrollment and participation in college or university credit courses.
Fees for Texas State University Credit Courses
Texas State will reimburse certain, but not all, fees for any of its employees enrolled in a Texas State credit course provided the employee is employed full-time in a regular position at the university and successfully completes the course with a passing grade of D or higher. Individuals in the Teacher Fellows Program are also eligible. (Reimbursements are only applicable to courses taken at Texas State.) These fees include:
Student service fee;
Computer service fee;
Student publication fee;
LBJ Student Center fee;
Recreational Sports fee;
Medical service fee;
International education fee;
Off-campus course fee;
Student success fee;
ID Services fee;
Environmental service fee;
Athletics fee; and
Electronic course fee.
Staff Enrollment in College or University Credit Courses
The university may release full-time regular staff to take one course during regular work hours if the staff member’s department head determines that the release will not materially affect department operations. Such approval will be documented on the Release Time and Reimbursement for Academic Course Request Form that must be submitted to Human Resources (HR) by the twelfth class day for the fall or spring semesters and the fourth class day for the first summer term. If the department head denies a request, he or she will provide the staff member with written reasons for the denial.
Under this provision, the department may release a full-time staff member for up to three hours per week during each long semester and six hours per week during only one summer session.
The three- and six-hour release time limits apply to courses taken a) on the Texas State campus; b) at a location off campus; c) at another institution; and d) online or through distance learning. The employee must make up any time taken in excess of the allotted release time limits, including travel time to and from the classroom, by working additional hours in the same week or taking leave from an appropriate leave category.
Staff members may take additional courses outside regular working hours provided that attendance does not interfere with completion of assigned duties.
The university considers time away from work during regular working hours to attend academic professional development activities as training time if the activities are: a) directly related to the employee’s current or prospective job duties in the department; or b) part of a formal degree program for a bachelor’s or graduate degree. The employee should record this time as “class release time” on the employee’s timesheet and not as personal leave.
Faculty Enrollment in College or University Credit Courses
Faculty members may attend academic classes at Texas State or elsewhere provided that such enrollment does not interfere with the completion of assigned duties. If a faculty member requests a fee reimbursement for Texas State courses, the full-time faculty member must initiate the request on the Release Time and Reimbursement for Academic Courses Request Form and forward it to his or her department chair. The department chair will complete the approval portion of the form and forward it to HR before the faculty member attends any course under this provision.
If enrollment is related to current or prospective assignments, absence from campus is not considered a leave of absence, but rather a part of the faculty member’s regular university activities. Faculty members may also enroll in courses at Texas State or elsewhere for personal development provided that attendance does not interfere with the completion of assigned duties. In either case, the faculty member must notify the department chair in writing before enrolling in classes so that the chair can determine if any conflict exists.
Department funds may be used to reimburse tuition and fees (but not travel costs) for college or university credit courses at Texas State or other accredited institutions of higher education if the following three criteria are met:
the course relates directly to the employee’s current or prospective job duties in the department;
the employee’s department head or other appropriate approval authority approves both the enrollment and the reimbursement as documented with department account information on the Release Time and Reimbursement for Academic Courses Request Form. The employee’s tuition and fees will then be charged to the designated department. This form must be submitted to HR by the twelfth day of classes for the fall or spring semesters and the fourth class day for the first summer session term; and
the employee completes the course with a successful completion grade of D or higher.
Tax-free educational assistance benefits include reimbursements for tuition, fees, and similar expenses, books, supplies, and equipment. Education generally includes any form of instruction or training that improves or develops an employee’s capabilities. The reimbursements do not have to be for work-related courses or courses that are part of a degree program (IRS Publication 970 Chapter 11).
Education Below the Graduate Level – If the employee receives a reimbursement of tuition for education assistance benefits below the graduate level (including primary, secondary, or high school), it is a qualified tuition reduction, and therefore tax-free.
Education at the Graduate Level up to $5,250 –
If the employee receives a reimbursement of tuition for graduate level educational assistance benefits, he or she can exclude up to $5,250 of those benefits each year.
The university will not include those benefits with the employee’s wages, tips, and other compensation shown on their Form W-2, box 1.
The employee will not include these benefits on his or her income tax return.
Education assistance benefit reimbursements do not include payments for the following items:
meals, lodging, or transportation;
tools or supplies (other than textbooks) that an employee can keep after completing the course of instruction; and
courses involving sports, games, or hobbies unless they:
have a reasonable relationship to the business of the university; or
are required as part of a degree program.
Procedures for Participation
All faculty and staff taking academic courses at Texas State or other accredited institution of higher education and seeking release time or university reimbursement of applicable tuition and fees, must submit the Release Time and Reimbursement for Academic Course Request Form to their department head prior to enrollment. The department head will complete the approval portion of the form and forward it to HR for employment eligibility verification.
The completed Release Time and Reimbursement for Academic Course Request Form must be received by HR by the twelfth class day of the fall or spring semester or the fourth class day of the first summer term. No reimbursement will be processed for any form received after that date unless approval has been routed through the employee’s Cabinet member and the vice president for Finance and Support Services (VPFSS).
Once the form is received, the assistant vice president for Human Resources (AVPHR) will notify Financial Aid and Scholarships (FAS) of the students applying to receive the reimbursement. The notification will allow FAS to adjust the potential recipient’s federal and other financial aid as required by applicable regulation.
Employees who terminate employment before the last day of all scheduled finals are not eligible for reimbursement.
Procedures for Reimbursement
Once the designated employees identified to HR by the requests received have satisfactorily completed the courses with a passing grade of D or higher, HR will forward the list to Student Business Services (SBS). This document will serve as the confirmation document for tuition and fees payments at Texas State. SBS will:
process a reimbursement to the student of only prior-approved Texas State tuition and fees within thirty business days after posting of grades. If the student still owes for past due charges or has a balance for the future term, the refund will be applied to the student’s account prior to any refund being sent to the student.
address any IRS requirements regarding employee tuition and fees payment.
The respective department may agree to reimburse the employee for courses taken at an institution other than Texas State through documentation on the Release Time and Reimbursement for Academic Courses Request Form when the course is directly related to the employee’s current or prospective job duties and the department head has submitted the account number from which reimbursement will be taken. The employee must attach evidence of successful completion with a D or higher grade and an itemized bill of tuition and fees to be reimbursed through Accounts Payable at Texas State.
PROCEDURES FOR NON-ACADEMIC PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES
Non-academic professional development activities are the enrollment and participation in professional development activities that are not college or university credit courses. Department funds may be used to pay registration and other similar fees, as well as appropriate travel costs, if the activity relates to the employee’s current or prospective job duties in the department and the employee’s department head approves both the enrollment in the activity and the payment.
The university considers time away from work during regular working hours to attend non-academic professional development activities that are directly related to employee’s current or prospective job duties as training time. Supervisors are encouraged to allow staff employees the opportunity to enroll in non-academic professional development activities that are related to the employee’s current or prospective job duties. For such activities, time away from the office should be recorded as regular work time.
The university supports the enrollment of staff and faculty employees in the non-academic training and professional development opportunities offered on campus by Professional Development, Instructional Technologies Support, Technology Resources, and Faculty Development, as well as other campus resource areas. The supervisor has final authority to grant time for employees to attend such workshops and courses dependent on adequate duty coverage.
Faculty members may also enroll in non-academic courses at Texas State or elsewhere for personal development provided that attendance does not interfere with the completion of assigned duties.
Supervisors are reminded that planning for annual training and development opportunities should be incorporated into an employee’s annual job performance appraisal.
PROCEDURES FOR STAFF EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
The Staff Educational Development Program allows a maximum of seven staff members selected as undergraduate participants to earn from nine credit hours up to a maximum of 12 credit hours per fall or spring semester and from six up to a maximum of nine credit hours for graduate participants with tuition and fees reimbursed by the university.
In addition, the staff members’ work hours will be adjusted accordingly, but to no less than 20 hours per week.
Eligibility Criteria for the Staff Educational Development Program
Regular non-grant full-time staff employees who are U.S. citizens or resident aliens and who have been employed at the university at least one year and who are not students as a condition of employment are eligible to participate in this program.
Each undergraduate participant is expected to enroll for a minimum of nine credit hours with a maximum of 12 credit hours per fall or spring semester. Graduate student participants are expected to enroll for a minimum of six credit hours with a maximum of nine credit hours per fall or spring semester.
Participants who drop below the approved minimum required semester credit hours prior to the end of the semester will be identified by the AVPHR and reported to the appropriate Cabinet member. The Cabinet member will determine eligibility to continue in the program including adjustment of workload and reimbursement of tuition and fees.
If an employee takes nine undergraduate credit hours or six graduate credit hours, his or her work hours may be reduced by ten hours per week. If enrollment is for 10 to 11 undergraduate credit hours or seven to eight graduate credit hours, his or her work hours may be reduced by 15 hours per week. If enrollment is for 12 undergraduate credit hours or nine graduate credit hours, his or her work hours may be reduced by 20 hours per week.
NOTE: The employee is authorized to take the maximum reduction of work hours indicated above. However, if an employee feels that they will not require the entire allocation, this reduction could be negotiated with their supervisor. Any such reduction must be initiated by the employee and not the supervisor.
Participants are expected to maintain a minimum 2.25 undergraduate grade point average (GPA) or 3.0 graduate GPA each semester that they participate in the program. The appropriate Cabinet member has the option to discontinue any participant who fails to maintain the required GPA.
The AVPHR will verify semester credit hours completed and GPA attained by participants each semester and report to the appropriate Cabinet member.
All courses are subject to approval by the Cabinet member. Changes in courses requested on the original application should be submitted through channels to the appropriate Cabinet member.
Participants seeking course offerings not provided by Texas State will have those requests reviewed on a case-by-case basis by their respective Cabinet member who will make the final determination.
Participants must sign the Application for Staff Educational Development Leave prior to beginning classes. By signing this form, the participant enters into contractual agreement to remain at Texas State for 12 months after completing the last approved staff educational development leave.
Participants terminating employment prior to completing 12 months will be required to reimburse salary, tuition and fees according to a reasonable reimbursement schedule. If the account should go to an agency for collection, any associated agency fees, which may be up to an additional 30 percent, will be charged to the terminating employee as well. Exceptions due to unusual circumstances will be considered by the appropriate Cabinet member.
The university will reimburse the full cost of tuition and fees for up to 12 credit hours for undergraduate participants and up to nine credit hours for graduate participants per selected semester upon successful completion of the course with at least a passing grade of D.
Participants may enroll in additional courses at their own expense with no expectation of reimbursement. Participants pursuing a post-master’s degree at another institution will arrange their schedules with their respective supervisor. The university will reimburse the cost of tuition and fees equal to the cost of enrolling in a graduate program at Texas State.
Texas State must comply with IRS Guidelines for Educational Assistance Benefits, defined in IRS Publication 970, page 61. If Texas State reimburses more than $5,250 in graduate student educational assistance benefits during a calendar year, participants must pay tax on the amount over $5,250. This amount will be included in the employee wages (Form W-2, box 1).
Participants will be compensated at their full-time pay rate during their enrollment in the program. Participants will arrange their work schedules with their respective supervisor.
No more than seven participants per semester will be chosen within the university, one from each Cabinet member’s division. If a Cabinet member makes no selection for a particular semester, that appointment may be filled by a Cabinet member with more than one qualified applicant.
Participants may be selected for one semester or two consecutive semesters, with a maximum of four semesters during their employment with Texas State.
Selected applicants who are unable to participate in the semester for which they are approved may seek re-admittance to the program for another semester without penalty. An alternate may be selected by the Cabinet member for a semester when a selected applicant from his or her division is unable to participate.
Applicants may seek staff educational development leave to satisfy the requirements for a graduate or undergraduate degree.
Individuals will be selected from a pool of applicants within their respective division.
Each Cabinet member will solicit applications from their respective division in February for participation during the following fall semester and in August for the following spring semester.
Each prospective participant will complete an Application for Staff Educational Development Leave and submit it to the appropriate department head.
The department head will provide comments and forward through administrative channels to the appropriate Cabinet member by March 1 for the fall semester and September 1 for the spring semester.
The Cabinet member will review the applications and determine if any of the applicants are to be selected. Consideration will be given to the applicant’s current academic standing, previous academic achievements, length of service to Texas State, past and current job performance, and potential to succeed in the courses requested. Each Cabinet member will notify the selected applicant, as well as their department head, of their selection as well as their department head prior to registration for the upcoming semester.
The Cabinet member will submit the name of the division’s participant to the AVPHR by June 15 for the fall semester and October 15 for spring semester.
Appropriate paperwork will be sent by the AVPHR to the VPFSS for account signature, and then forwarded to SBS for processing.
Once the paperwork is approved, the AVPHR will notify FAS of the students selected to receive the reimbursement. The notification will allow FAS to adjust the potential recipient’s federal and other financial aid as required by applicable regulation.
Books and any costs other than tuition and fees are not reimbursed under this program.
Procedure for Reimbursement
Upon successful completion of the course (a passing grade of D or higher), the AVPHR will certify the list of qualified student reimbursements to SBS. SBS will process the reimbursement within 30 business days after posting of grades. If student still owes for past due charges or has a balance for the future term, the refund will be applied to the student’s account prior to any refund being sent to the student.
Career Services will provide assessment of career planning needs at the request of interested participants.
Upon request, the AVPHR will provide additional information about program expectations and requirements to participants and their supervisors.
The AVPHR will review the academic standing of each participant to determine eligibility and the need for additional academic resources or support services.
* UNIVERSITY SUPPORT FOR GED ATTAINMENT
Texas State encourages access to the education and job training necessary for career advancement and lifelong learning. Therefore, attainment of a General Educational Development (GED) certificate by any full-time regular employee is supported through the GED Attainment program. The GED certificate is earned after passing four subtests:
Detailed information about registration, assessment, and test completion is outlined at University Support of GED Attainment.
Employees will be granted release time from work to attend registration and assessment if those time periods are during their regular work hours.
The employee will be reimbursed the cost of the test fee upon successful completion of each subtest. Upon completion of all four subtests, the employee will receive a one-time payment of $500 to help cover costs involved in travel for study sessions as well as testing.
REVIEWERS OF THIS UPPS
Reviewers of this UPPS include the following:
Position Date Assistant Vice President for Human Resources October 1 E3Y Treasurer October 1 E3Y Chair, Staff Council October 1 E3Y Chair, Faculty Senate October 1 E3Y
This UPPS has been approved by the following individuals in their official capacities and represents Texas State policy and procedure from the date of this document until superseded.
Assistant Vice President for Human Resources; senior reviewer of this UPPS
Vice President for Finance and Support Services