Policy Number: III-21
Last Reviewed: September 19, 2019
Responsible Dept.: Human Resources, Financial and Administrative Services, Office of the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, Office of the President
Office to contact for clarifications: Human Resources
A signed copy of this policy is available in the President’s Office.
Educational assistance is available to eligible employees to encourage and support educational and professional development opportunities when these opportunities benefit the college, enhance current job performance, and/or improve opportunities for advancement at Virginia Western. Employees who receive educational assistance may be required to sign a Continuation Agreement.
Ad Hoc Committee for Professional Development – A committee designed to assist in the development, processes, and administration of overall educational assistance funding distribution.
Continuation Agreement – An employee agreement to remain employed with the college for six months after receiving upfront payment for educational assistance. Employees seeking reimbursement may be required to sign an agreement. Employees who receive educational leave with pay will be required to sign a Continuation Agreement twice that of the leave period.
Educational Assistance – Educational assistance is inclusive of professional development activities, graded college coursework, the acquisition of job-related degrees, professional certifications, and/or licenses. Employees seeking financial assistance for these activities must have the request pre-approved. Books are not an eligible expense. For college coursework within Virginia Western, refer to the Continuous Learning Policy and procedures for employees.
Educational Leave – – A pre-approved unconditional leave that can be with or without pay that allows employees to further their education through study related to their work or that of the college. Educational assistance may be combined with educational leave. Educational leave requests may consist of full pay, partial pay or leave without pay for up to 12 months. For the exception of an unconditional leave without pay, employees shall be required in accordance with VCCS policy to sign a Continuation Agreement to work for the college for a period twice that of the leave period.
Educational Assistance Request Form (form VCCS-16) – A required form that an employee completes when requesting educational assistance for college coursework.
Eligible Employees – Educational assistance shall only apply to non-probationary full-time faculty rank and non-probationary full-time classified employees.
Job Related Courses – Courses related to employees’ current positions to meet one of the following objectives: (a) to provide training in the use of new or modified methods and/or equipment; (b) to provide training in skills and knowledge required by changes in the employees’ current positions, or (c) the completion of courses as it relates to promotional requirements for faculty.
Non-Job Related Courses – Career/professional development courses or studies that may prepare an individual for advancement in another field of work within the college’s mission or at a higher level of proficiency in the current profession.
Degree Requirement – Academic courses taken at regionally accredited institutions (a) to enable qualified administrative and teaching faculty to attain advanced degrees for the maintenance of established standards of the college, promotion, or to meet specific needs that have been authorized by the college; or (b) to enable classified employees to complete degree programs which will enhance job performance or support the college’s mission.
New Employees – Probationary employees within their first year of becoming a full-time employee.
Promissory Note – A required form for participation in the Educational Assistance Program when requesting upfront payment for tuition. The employee is acknowledging their requirement to make a “C” or better in the class; otherwise, under obligation of this contract, the employee must repay the college.
Taxable Benefit – In accordance with IRS regulations, the cost of tuition may be or become a taxable benefit to the employee. Employees will be notified if they are subject to paying taxes on this benefit.
Unconditional Leave Without Pay – An unconditional leave without pay is a pre-approved absence from work in excess of 14 consecutive calendar days without pay that guarantees reinstatement to the position held by the employee before the leave commenced. Employees will not be required to sign a Continuation Agreement.
To the extent of available resources, the college may financially assist eligible employees or provide leave for educational and/or professional development opportunities. The president shall approve/disapprove requests. The authority of the president shall not be inconsis¬tent with the policies in force by the state, VCCS, and pertinent delegated authority agreements.
Employees pursuing degrees shall file a full program of study with the Human Resources Office. Any changes to the program of study shall be filed with Human Resources as changes are made.
- Each supervisor shall support the development of all employees through participation in and providing equal access to education, training and development opportunities.
- When college allocated funding for educational assistance is not available, the supervisor must consider the availability of funds in their departmental budget. Additionally, in the absence of an Ad Hoc Professional Development Committee, supervisors shall develop an internal method that is non-discriminatory and uniformly administered for determining when financial support will be provided to employees for education or professional growth.
- The decision to recommend financial assistance is the responsibility of each supervisor based on the needs of both the college and the individual.
- Supervisors may require employees to seek training or take classes to improve their job skills when performance issues arise. In these situations, the college shall pay for all costs associated to the supervisory requirement, including books if applicable. Books shall be the property of the college after the completion of the coursework. When feasible, college coursework should be completed at Virginia Western through the Continuous Learning Program for employees.
- The identification of education and training, either required or voluntary, or faculty promotional requirements should normally occur during the annual supervisor/employee discussion during the annual performance evaluation and planning processes. However, education and training opportunities may be identified outside of the annual process and may be considered as the needs or opportunities arise.
Ad-Hoc Committee for Professional Development Role
- The Ad-Hoc Committee shall assist the vice president of Academic and Student Affairs in planning for and allocating fiscal year funding in order to equitably and uniformly support educational assistance. The committee shall develop the educational assistance application process, establish deadlines, and advertise when applications are accepted. The committee shall form as allocated funds for educational assistance and/or professional development become available.
- The Professional Development Ad-Hoc Committee, according to established processes, will review courses, conferences, and any other professional development activity submitted for approval during the application process.
- The Ad-Hoc Committee, however, shall not make recommendations regarding continuous learning courses taken at Virginia Western by eligible employees.
Educational Assistance Eligibility and Provisions
- The Educational Assistance Program shall apply to all non-probationary full-time faculty rank and full-time classified employees.
- College coursework must be for job related courses, non-job related courses that meet policy criteria, or for degree requirements at regionally accredited institutions of higher education, public or private, outside of Virginia Western Community College.
- Employees must be employed with the college throughout the term of the coursework and satisfactorily complete college courses with a grade of “C” or better to receive financial assistance. Employees who request upfront payment and do not complete the coursework with a grade “C” or better shall immediately refund the college. Auditing is prohibited under the provisions of state and VCCS policy.
- Educational assistance funding may be limited or ceased in the college’s fiscal year budget.
- College courses approved for educational assistance shall be subject to the per credit hour tuition rate in effect at that college at the time the course is to be taken: however, this cost shall not to exceed the per credit hour tuition rate at Virginia Tech, unless specified otherwise by Virginia Western administration.
- Eligibility for educational assistance that includes leave with full pay, partial pay or without pay shall be controlled by VCCS Policy 126.96.36.199.C., Department of Human Resources Management (DHRM) Policy 5.10 Educational Assistance, and DHRM Policy 4.15 Educational Leave.
- Employees may be required to complete a Continuation Agreement to remain employed with the college for a specified period before receiving educational assistance provided in the form of leave or upfront financial support.
- The Educational Assistance Program is not available to employees receiving financial aid in the semester for which financial support through the program is sought.
- An employee who fails to follow policy or the associated procedure shall not be approved for Educational Assistance for the academic semester in which it is sought.
Payment Options for the Educational Assistance Program
For all payment options, the employee must be currently employed by the college in a full-time position and the course(s) must be completed satisfactorily with a grade of “C” or better.
Up-Front Payment-Promissory Note
Approved courses taken at other institutions of higher education will be based upon tuition and mandatory fees in effect at the time the courses are taken. The college may pay for the course at the time of registration. Pursuant to VCCS Policy 188.8.131.52, if upfront payment is requested, the employee shall not only complete a VCCS-16 but also execute a promissory note for the amount of tuition and mandatory fees prior to registration for the course, and a continuation of employment agreement. Payment for tuition will be transmitted to the institution by check or IAT. If an employee fails to complete a course, receives an unsatisfactory final grade, and/or the fails to complete the employee work obligation the college shall initiate repayment provisions immediately which shall not exceed six months.
In the event an employee receives a grade other than a “C”, “B”, “A” or “P” for the course(s) pursued under the Educational Assistance Program, the college will immediately implement the repayment options pursuant to VCCS Policy.
Prior to registration, an employee submits a VCCS-16 requesting tuition assistance. Employees must obtain all approvals before submitting the VCCS-16 to Human Resources. Employees pay the required tuition and fees and request reimbursement for the tuition costs after course completion. The employee submits proof of payment and their final grade to the Human Resources Office. The employee may be required to sign a Continuation Agreement.
General Provisions for Educational Assistance
- All documents of employees receiving educational assistance shall be filed in the Human Resources Office as required by state and federal regulations. These documents will become part of the employee’s official personnel records.
- When dictated by the IRS, educational assistance will be a taxable benefit.
- Employees must adhere to the college’s Educational Assistance for Employees Procedure.
Fair Labor Standards Act – Hours of Work
College courses taken by employees that are not supervisory required that occur during and/or outside of normal work hours are not considered hours of work, if employee’s attendance is voluntary, and the employee performs no productive work during such attendance. Employees taking courses voluntarily during normal work hours are required to request in advance an alternate work schedule to fulfill their normal work hours per week. Additional adjustments may take the form of requiring the use of annual or compensatory leave or VSDP family/personal leave (for VSDP participants). Faculty are required to ensure that courses do not conflict with teaching and college responsibilities.
Professional development activities, such as training or conferences, which are job related as approved by the supervisor are considered hours of work.
Supervisors must appropriately manage work schedules to ensure that the daily and/or workweek standards are met in accordance with college policy.
Supervisory Required Courses
- After Work Hours – Courses offered after hours and are required by the supervisor shall be considered hours worked and will be counted accordingly on the employee’s timesheet, if applicable. Consequently, overtime payment will be due to non-exempt employees for total hours worked over 40 in the workweek if the supervisor fails to manage the employee’s schedule appropriately.
- During Work Hours – Courses taken by employees that are required by the supervisor to enhance job performance shall be considered hours worked during their regularly scheduled workweek and will not be subject to work schedule adjustments or requirements to use accrued leave balances. Time spent in a job related supervisory required class during normal work hours is considered hours of work for computing any overtime liability.
Policy on Policy and Procedure
The college may modify this policy from time-to-time to meet college needs. This policy may address:
- Partial payments of tuition and fees.
- Establishment of in-state benchmark payments for tuition at out-of-state institutions of higher education.
- Limiting the financial support for the first two years of a degree program to the cost of the course at a community college.
- Application procedures and deadlines.
- Tax implications.
Other Sources of Financial Assistance Available for Employees
- Eligible employees may apply for financial assistance through the VWCC Educational Foundation. The Foundation has established guidelines that determine the eligibility and aid to be granted to employees.
- Eligible employees may apply for textbook assistance through the VWCC Educational Foundation. Established guidelines determine eligibility of employees qualifying for assistance based on financial need.
- Eligible employees may also apply for the Chancellor’s Fellowship programs for faculty and classified employees.
- Eligible employees may utilize the Continuous Learning Program.
VCCS Policy 3.10 Educational Assistance and Continuous Learning Program Guidelines
Virginia Community College Educational Assistance for Employees Procedure
DHRM Policy 4.15 Educational Leave
DHRM Policy 4.45 Leave Without Pay Conditional and Unconditional
VWCC Student Policies
IRS Publication 15-B Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits