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Employee Education

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Policy Information
  • Issue Date: January 1, 2006
  • Revision Date: February 10, 2010
  • Primary Contact: Director of Human Resources
  • Responsible Member of Directorate: Vice President of Finance & Administration
  • Responsible Office: Human Resources
Policy Statement
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution encourages its employees to further their own careers by continuing their formal education through enrollment in courses and degree programs.  Under the Institution’s Employee Education Policy, formal education programs undertaken by employees to further their own career development may be partially or fully fundable through this cost-reimbursable plan.

Reason for Policy
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution encourages its employees to further their own careers by continuing their formal education through enrollment in courses and degree programs.  Under the Institution’s Employee Education Policy, formal education programs undertaken by employees to further their own career development may be partially or fully fundable through this cost-reimbursable plan.

Contents
Policy Information
Policy Statement
Reason for Policy
Who Should Be Familiar With This Policy
Related Documents
Contacts
Definitions & Responsibilities
   Benefits-eligible Temporary Employee
   Regular Full-time Employee
   Regular ?-time Employee
   Regular Half-time Employee
Overview & Procedures
   Eligibility
   Education Assistance Which Qualifies for Reimbursement
   Acceptable Schools and Courses
   Payment Policy
   Prepayments
   Taxability of Benefits
   Tax Withholding
   Leave of Absence for Educational Purposes
   Application Procedure
   When Benefits End


Who Should Be Familiar With This Policy
  • Benefits-eligible Employees
  • Managers, Supervisors, and Administrators
  • Human Resources Staff
  • Controller’s Office Staff


Related Documents
Institution Policies

Human Resources: Extended Leave of Absence
Human Resources: Marine Crew Member Procedures


Contacts

If you have questions about specific issues or need assistance with the interpretation of this policy, please contact a Benefits Specialist in Human Resources.

Human Resources Office................................ x2253



Definitions & Responsibilities
These definitions apply to these terms as they are used in this policy.

Benefits-eligible Temporary Employee A temporary employee expected to work at least forty (40) hours per pay period with an appointment for twelve (12) or more consecutive months. Benefits-eligible temporary employees are eligible for the same full benefits as regular employees.
Regular Full-time Employee An employee expected to work no less than eighty (80) hours per pay period for an indefinite period of time, but at least twelve (12) consecutive months.
Regular ?-time Employee An employee expected to work at least sixty (60) hours per pay period but less than eighty (80) hours per pay period for an indefinite period of time, but at least twelve (12) consecutive months.
Regular Half-time Employee An employee expected to work at least forty (40) hours per pay period but less than sixty (60) hours per pay period for an indefinite period of time, but at least twelve (12) consecutive months.

Overview & Procedures
Eligibility To be eligible for assistance, the employee must be a regular full-time, ¾-time, half-time, or benefits-eligible temporary employee who has completed at least six months of employment.

Employees who enroll in courses prior to the end of the six-month period will be eligible for reimbursement if employed longer than six months.  They are not eligible for prepayment.
Education Assistance Which Qualifies for Reimbursement Educational assistance shall be defined as follows:
  • Job related studies from which knowledge can be gained that will enhance performance in a significant portion of the employee’s present position.
  • Career related studies that prepare for advancement in one’s current field or a field in which the employee may reasonably be expected to work at the Institution.
Studies may be either individual courses or programs leading to a degree or marine license upgrade. Courses that may not be work-related but are required for a degree, and the degree program meets the above criteria, may be reimbursed.
Acceptable Schools and Courses Acceptable under this plan are regular courses offered for credit at accredited schools, colleges, and universities; courses credited toward a high school diploma or equivalency certificate; correspondence university extension courses; and Ship Operations-approved schools for license upgrades.

MIT/WHOI Joint Program courses may be available to eligible employees upon their acceptance as a Special Student.  There is a separate application procedure for Special Student status, which is handled by the Academic Programs Office. 

Professional seminars and workshops do not qualify. Certain categories of training offered in intensive short courses, which may be required by the employee’s department, do not fall under this policy, but may be covered by the departmental budget.
Payment Policy Reimbursable costs include tuition, fees and books, but does not include transportation costs or fees for late or deferred payment of tuition.

The maximum amount reimbursable for tuition, fees and books in a calendar year (January – December) is $5,250 and may be adjusted periodically.  A semester of study falling mainly in one year is attributable to that year.  This limit is prorated based on status at the time of study.  This proration of benefits does not apply to course materials.

To be reimbursed for a course, evidence of satisfactory completion (grade report) must be submitted.  Satisfactory completion means a grade of C (or equivalent) or better for an undergraduate course, and B or better for a graduate course.  If no grade is given for a course, a certificate or letter from the school indicating satisfactory completion should be provided.

Upon submission of the reimbursement request form (see application procedure) to the Human Resources Office, payment will be made through the Controller’s Office within fourteen working days.

Special arrangements for reimbursement of partial costs for correspondence courses may be made where the course lasts longer than six months.
Prepayments Prepayment of an amount up to $1,500, but not to exceed 50% of the tuition, fees and books, can be arranged by way of a payroll advance for all approved courses.  The employee will be required to sign an agreement stating that, if the conditions for reimbursement are not met as outlined above, the amount advanced will be settled by way of immediate payroll deduction.  If an employee will not be completing a course within one year of receipt of the prepayment, then s/he must provide in writing the circumstances for the delay and expected date of course completion.  Without this application for extension, the prepayment will be settled by way of immediate payroll deduction. 
Taxability of Benefits

The taxability of tuition reimbursement is subject to the existing provisions of Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code.  Employees should be advised to obtain tax counsel as to the reportability and deductibility of educational expense reimbursements.  Generally, educational expenses qualifying as job-related are not reportable as income to the employee.

Tax Withholding If the course of study falls under a taxable category as defined in the Internal Revenue Code, WHOI is required by law to withhold federal income taxes for these tuition assistance benefits. If taxable benefits are received, federal, state, and Social Security (FICA) taxes will be withheld from the employee’s reimbursement check. Federal and state income taxes will be withheld based on the employee’s current withholdings on file in the Payroll Office. FICA taxes will be withheld at the rate in effect during the year payment is received. Taxable benefits will be reported as part of annual income on the employee’s W-2 statement.
Leave of Absence for Educational Purposes Employees are normally expected to arrange to attend classes that do not conflict with normal working hours.  If a course is available only during working hours, a full-time employee may arrange for absences not to exceed eight hours per week.  Such absences must be approved in advance by the Department Chair or Administrative Manager as appropriate, who must also approve the arrangements to make up the absences.  The employee will remain on full-time status, accruing fringe benefits accordingly.

If the time absent cannot be made up and does not exceed 20 hours per week, the employee may request up to 20 hours per week as unpaid Educational Leave and still be eligible for full assistance under this plan.  Upon approval of the leave by the Department Chair or Administrative Manager and the appropriate member of the Directorate, the employee’s status will change to half or ¾-time, with accrual of fringe benefits accordingly.  Upon completion of the course, the employee’s status will revert to full-time (See also, Extended Leave of Absence Policy).
Application Procedure Application for Employee Education Assistance must be made in advance of enrollment in the course or program that the employee is requesting assistance.  A standardized form (available from the Human Resources Office) is to be used.  This form requires information about the course or program the employee is planning to follow, an itemized budget showing the full cost and requested amount, and a supporting statement from the supervisor.

Upon completion of the form and submission to the Human Resources Office, a copy of the application will be returned to the employee indicating the decision.  If approved, the employee will retain the copy and submit it along with evidence of satisfactory completion to obtain reimbursement.  If prepayment is requested and approved, the Human Resources Office will arrange for the necessary advance. 

All requests will be processed through the Human Resources Office, which will be responsible for developing a budget, maintaining records, recommending updates in the policy, and final approval of payment(s).
When Benefits End If an employee leaves WHOI, no reimbursement to the employee will be payable.  If the employee received a prepayment, the amount advanced will be settled by way of immediate payroll deduction.  If an employee is laid off, reimbursement for courses which commenced prior to the layoff will be made when courses are successfully completed.

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Last updated: February 12, 2010
 


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