Duke’s tuition benefit

Benefits are an important reason that employees value jobs, and Duke University’s tuition benefit for the children of employees is an example of one that makes Duke an attractive place to work. Interestingly, my experience is that outsiders greatly over-estimate the value of the benefit, as do many employees with young children.

To whit, I was at a social gathering the other night and someone said “it must be so great working at Duke since your kids can go to college for free!?” That is, of course, not true, but I was armed with more facts than before because I have a daughter who is a rising senior in high school, and so I am paying great attention to such issues. The actual tuition benefit goes like this (for 2 children, with each getting 8 semesters of coverage; I have 3 kids).

  • I pay a deductible equal to $2,912/semester (this deductible is 50 cents more than UNC-Chapel Hill’s tuition per semester for this year, the most expensive state school in NC)
  • After the deductible I can receive up to 75% of Duke’s tuition to go toward tuition at Duke or another University, ($15,865.50/semester or $31,731/year).

My daughter is interested in Barnard so I work through that example here, and it is what I am trying to plan on because it is about as expensive as they come, so if she goes somewhere else (the list of possibles is long at this point) it will be less. Barnard’s tuition for 2012-13 is $20,925/semester, so I would pay $2,912 (deductible) + $2,147.50 ($20,925-$2,912-$15,865.50)= $5,059.50 x 2 =$10,119 for a full year in tuition. Mandatory fees are $1,652/year and a shared dorm room is $8,240/year. Freshmen at Barnard must purchase a full meal plan which comes to $5,570/year. I can cover her on my health insurance plan, so she wouldn’t have to pay the $1,280 student health insurance fee. So, we are up to Duke paying $31,731 toward tuition for a full year at 2012-13 prices and I/we would be responsible for:

  • $10,119 tuition
  • $15,462 in fees, room and board

Not sure exactly how much to estimate for other expenses, but I have heard uttered from my daughter’s lips the phrase “it would be so cool to be able to go see Wicked on broadway on the weekends!” so I will say $10,000/year which would give Barnard at cost of attendance of about $65,000/year.

So, if you are looking for a bottom line of what the Duke tuition benefit covers:

  • The cost of attendance at UNC* or NC State is about $20,000/year for N.C. residents (other state schools are less). If my child went there, I would have to pay the full cost because the per semester deductible for the Duke tuition benefit is set at just above the cost of tuition at these Universities.
  • Or my child could go to a school like Barnard (or other private university) with me/us paying $30,000-$35,000/year depending on cost of living, fees and room and board (and Duke paying ~$32,000/year).

If a child obtains scholarships for tuition, that reduces Duke’s tuition benefit. If a kid gets an undeclared scholarship it can be applied to room and board without reducing Duke’s benefit. In the end, the benefit is a far cry from “your kid goes to college for free” it is more like “your kid can go to a private school for about half price or about 50% more than UNC” which is still a valuable benefit. And I understand the benefit to somehow be tax free, which means that it would take on the order of ~$45,000 in income to produce that purchasing power, of course depending on your tax bracket.

The Duke tuition benefit is a valuable one to employees. However, it is unclear to me why so many people think the benefit is much more lucrative than it actually is.

*I went to UNC. Three times.

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy at Duke University (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute). I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy, and currently serve as Chair of Duke's University Priorities Committee (UPC). My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

3 Responses to Duke’s tuition benefit

  1. Mike Munger says:

    Dude. It’s TOTALLY tax-free.

    And if you have two kids in school at the same time, that’s the equivalent of an extra $90k taxable income per year. PER YEAR. I don’t know how much you rich lefties get paid over at Sanford, but over in Perkins that’s a pretty good chunk of change.

    • Don Taylor says:

      yes, it is tax free and worth ~$125,000 over 4 years if going to private university. The most interesting thing to me is still why do people think it is worth lots more?

  2. Pingback: Tuition benefits at other Universities « freeforall

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