Tuition Benefit for Spouses/Same-Sex Domestic Partners Attending the University of Pennsylvania

To recognize the University's commitment to higher education and to assist faculty and staff in meeting the cost of tuition for spouses, the University has developed the following policy.

The faculty/staff member is responsible for managing the tuition benefit for his/her spouse in accordance with the policies and procedures below.

Click here to begin using the online tuition management system. With this easy-to-use online system you can apply for tuition benefits, as well as track the status and view the history of requested tuition benefits.

409.1 ELIGIBILITY

Full-time faculty in a benefits-eligible title, regular full-time and limited service staff who have completed three (3) years of regular full-time service at the University are eligible to receive one-half (1/2) tuition assistance at the University for a spouse who is enrolled in an undergraduate degree program and takes credit courses during any session of the school calendar. Renewal of half tuition awards is contingent upon the continuation of the spousal relationship and the continued eligibility of the faculty or staff member.

If a faculty/staff member is affected by a position discontinuation, is eligible for benefits in accordance with Policy 628, and has a spouse who is receiving tuition benefits in accordance with this policy at the time of notice of position discontinuation, the spouse tuition benefit will continue through the end of the semester in which notice of separation was given.

The surviving spouse of a deceased member of the faculty or regular full-time or limited service staff is eligible for this tuition benefit, provided the deceased member was regular full-time on the date of death and had been so for at least seven (7) years previously.

The spouse of a retired University of Pennsylvania faculty or regular full-time or limited service staff member is eligible for this tuition benefit provided the faculty or staff member meets University eligibility requirements and retirement criteria as verified by a retirement specialist within the Division of Human Resources Benefits Office.

In the case of faculty/staff eligible for the tuition benefit, the following special situations may affect a faculty or staff member’s continued eligibility:

  • Leave of Absence without Pay: Faculty and staff on a leave of absence without pay are not eligible to receive tuition benefits during the leave.
  • Workers’ Compensation: Faculty and staff on workers’ compensation will continue to be eligible for the tuition benefit for one year from the date workers’ compensation began.
  • Long-Term Disability (LTD): Faculty and staff on long-term disability are eligible to receive the tuition benefit for as long as the faculty/staff member continues to qualify for long-term disability per the University of Pennsylvania’s LTD policy.
  • Faculty/staff who are active, but not being paid, may be considered ineligible.
  • Family and Medical Leave (FML) or Short-Term Disability (STD): Faculty and staff on approved family medical leave or short-term disability are eligible to receive the tuition benefits they are normally eligible for as follows:
    • If a faculty/staff member is on approved family medical leave (FML) or short-term disability (STD) and the end date of his/her leave is before the eligibility cutoff date for the semester, the faculty/staff member must return to work on his/her approved FML or STD end date and work past the eligibility cut-off date for the term, or continue to be out on official FML or STD. If the faculty/staff member is put on an unpaid leave of absence after family medical leave or short-term disability has been exhausted, but before the eligibility cut-off date for the term, s/he will not be eligible for tuition benefits.
  • If a faculty/staff member is on approved family medical leave or short-term disability and the end date of his/her leave is after the eligibility cut off date for the term, the faculty/staff member is eligible for the tuition benefit.

The Tuition Office makes final administrative determinations if any questions arise concerning an individual's employment relationship with the University and eligibility for tuition assistance under the program.

409.2 HIRE/TERMINATION DATES

Eligible faculty/staff with a three-year anniversary date* on or before the cut-off date of a given academic term are eligible to receive tuition benefits for their spouse during the term in which the anniversary occurs. Faculty/staff with a three-year anniversary date after the cut-off date of a given academic term are not eligible to receive tuition benefits for their spouse until the first academic term following the term in which the three-year anniversary occurs.

If a faculty/staff member terminates or becomes otherwise ineligible on or before the cut-off date of a semester, the University reserves the right to revoke or not award the spouse’s  tuition benefits. If a faculty/staff member terminates after the cut-off date of a semester, the spouse’s  tuition benefit will continue through that semester.

The cut-off dates are:

Spring semesterMarch 1
Summer Session I and 12-week Summer SessionJune 1
Summer Session IIJuly 15
Fall semesterOctober 15


*Only time served in a regular full-time staff or limited service position, or in a full-time faculty benefits-eligible position is counted in the calculation of a faculty/staff member’s anniversary date for tuition benefits eligibility.

409.3 TUITION AMOUNT

Full-time faculty in a benefits-eligible title and regular full-time and limited service staff members appointed or hired on or after July 1, 1997 are eligible to receive spouse tuition benefits for undergraduate courses as part of an undergraduate degree program only. The amount of the tuition benefit is 50% of the tuition and technology fees for credit courses at the University of Pennsylvania.

Full-time faculty in a benefits-eligible title and regular full-time and limited service staff members appointed or hired into an eligible position on or before June 30, 1997 are eligible for spouse  undergraduate and graduate tuition benefits. The amount of the benefit is 50% of the tuition and technology fees for credit courses at the University of Pennsylvania.

If the spouse is employed in a benefits-eligible position at Penn, the faculty/staff benefit (Policy 406) supersedes the spouse/same tuition benefit, and the individual is limited to tuition benefits through Policy 406 only.

If the spouse of a faculty/staff member receives a refund of a full or partial tuition benefit payment, s/he must return the payment to Student Financial Services and notify the tuition benefit office immediately or else the faculty/staff member will be liable. Under no circumstances can the Penn tuition benefit payment be refunded to a student. Failure to refund the University of Pennsylvania is in violation of the University’s tuition benefit policy and will result in the University taking appropriate actions to recapture the funds.

The tuition benefit is calculated and awarded on a term-by-term basis.

Tuition benefits for spouses are administered by the Tuition Office in the Division of Human Resources.

409.4 UNDERGRADUATE TUITION LIMIT

Undergraduate tuition benefits are limited to eight (8) semesters or the number of credit courses required for attainment of an undergraduate degree at the University, whichever comes first.

409.5 STUDENTS RECEIVING OUTSIDE SCHOLARSHIPS

If the dependent of a faculty/staff member is receiving the tuition benefit and will also receive another scholarship, then one of the following must be true:

  • If the other scholarship is restricted to either the line item of tuition or technology fee, the gross tuition benefit plus the scholarship cannot exceed the line item of tuition plus technology fee.
  • If the other scholarship can be used for charges other than tuition or technology fee, the recipient must make sure that the scholarship plus the Penn benefit does not exceed the total bill. If the scholarship plus the Penn benefit exceeds the bill, the recipient must make sure that the other scholarship's overpayment can be refunded to scholarship organization.
  • If the other scholarship will be used to cover the taxes that are withheld from a dependent graduate tuition benefit, the recipient must consult with the scholarship organization and/or IRS to determine if this is acceptable.

Please note, loans are not considered in the calculation of the tuition benefit amount and therefore are not subject to this policy.

409.6 APPLYING FOR BENEFITS

To apply for tuition benefits, use the online tuition system. Applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as the student has been accepted into a school’s program and receives his/her Student ID or as soon as the student has registered for courses. The request for benefit must be completed for every semester in which the student wishes to use the benefit.

Applications must be submitted online no later than the following dates:

Spring semester: March 15
Summer Session I and 12-week Summer Session: June 15
Summer Session II:August 15
Fall semester:November 15

Tuition benefits are contingent upon timely filing of an application. Failure to file for benefits in a timely manner may result in the application of late charges to the student’s bill, for which the student is responsible. Benefits will not be approved for applications that are submitted after the deadline dates listed above for a specified term.

Faculty/staff are responsible for monitoring the student bills for balances and assume full responsibility for the entire bill until the benefit payment has been applied. Resulting balances due to fees not covered by the benefit such as late fees or withholding are the responsibility of the faculty/staff member.

409.7 TAX LIABILITY

Faculty/staff are fully responsible for any tax liability incurred as a result of these benefits being treated as taxable income to the faculty/staff member at any time. The University may report the benefit amount as income to any taxing authority and withhold taxes from such benefit amounts or from the faculty/staff member's other salary income.

Under current law, graduate tuition benefits for spouses/ are subject to federal income tax, FICA (Social Security Tax), Medicare tax and city wage tax. The benefit is considered taxable income and treated as such.

The above taxes are withheld directly from the benefit and the net amount is awarded to the student as the scholarship. The gross tuition amount and taxes withheld are reported to the IRS as a part of the faculty or staff member's earnings. The taxpayer is responsible for making appropriate payroll withholding adjustments, if desired. The taxpayer is also responsible for settling his/her tax liability on year-end tax filing.

409.8 AUDITING

Faculty/staff taking advantage of the tuition benefit may be randomly chosen for participation in an audit conducted each semester or at the discretion of the Division of Human Resources. This audit requires proof of accuracy of benefit requests.

409.9 SAME-SEX DOMESTIC PARTNER

An employee who has registered a same-sex domestic partnership with the University prior to July  1, 2016, is eligible to receive benefits under this policy. 

Under current law, undergraduate and graduate tuition benefits for same-sex domestic partners are subject to federal income tax, FICA (Social Security Tax), Medicare tax and city wage tax. The benefit is considered taxable income and is treated as such.


Policy Number: 409
Effective Date: 05/09/2017
Supersedes Policy Number(s): 409 (01/01/1993, 07/01/1997, 05/26/2005, 04/09/2007, 11/1/2008, 04/05/2012)
Applicability:  Full-time Faculty; Regular Full-time and Limited Service Staff
Cross-reference:
Policy 406, Policy 407, Policy 408, Policy 628


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