University of Minnesota employees working on their first degree will have their tuition fully covered, U President Eric Kaler announced Friday, undoing a cut to the scholarship program.
But employees seeking their second degree would continuing paying 25 percent of tuition, he said.
Clerical employees have long called for the Regents Scholarship to be reinstated. It was reduced from full coverage to 90 percent for first degrees under past President Robert Bruininks during budget cuts in 2009.
I will check with union leaders to see whether this partial reinstatement satisfies their concerns.
In the meantime, here's what I wrote last month about what clerical workers told the Board of Regents at a public forum:
During Friday's public forum, clerical workers argued that several years of budget cuts and shifting health care costs have disproportionately affected the university's lowest-paid workers.
Several urged Kaler and the regents to restore the Regents Scholarship Program, which once funded 100 percent of employees' tuition but required them to pay for fees and books. In 2009, regents changed that ratio. Now, the scholarship covers 90 percent of an employee's first undergraduate degree and 75 percent of a graduate degree.
Leaders of the U's clerical workers union told the regents that after that change, many employees were forced to pick between paying rent and paying tuition. They said they requested data from the university last year that show that from 2007 to 2011, the number of employees in the scholarship program dropped by 32 percent.
"The cuts in the Regents Scholarship destroyed the hopes and dreams of our members," said Amy Selvius, an employee in the Institute for Global Studies.
Kaler is "sympathetic to the concerns expressed today" and "is thinking pretty seriously" about improving the scholarship program, spokesman Chuck Tombarge said. In the coming months, Kaler will weigh higher coverage in the context of the U's total compensation and broader budget.
"We do believe the program is very generous today," Tombarge said, "but even the 25 percent ... can certainly be a burden to the university's lowest-paid employees.