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Tuition is free at Principia now—but there is a catch. Students around campus may have heard of the recent policy change, but this tuition change only applies to students whose parents work as employees at Principia. On May 28, Dr. Palmer announced to faculty and staff that the tuition benefits for Christian Science employees would increase from 20 to 100 percent tuition discount. This applies to employees of Principia, pre-K through college.
Before this change took place, the benefit was determined by the employee’s salary. Doug Gibbs, Vice President of Finance said, “The previous policy was based on a person’s salary, so the higher the salary, the higher the benefit.”
When asked about the motivation behind this change, Vice President of Admissions Karen Grimmer said, “Principia places a high value on providing an engaging, challenging, and uplifting student experience. The primary reason for this change is to directly support this priority by helping attract, hire, and retain the most-qualified individuals available to deliver that experience.”
Principia recognizes the hard work and dedication of its employees. The administration believes that the best way to show appreciation and attract new, highly qualified employees is to offer their children the opportunity of a free education.
Grimmer said, “By equalizing the benefit across salary ranges, this enhancement to the tuition discount benefit supports current staff by removing the existing disadvantage to single parents and employees in lower paid positions. We expect it will also make Principia a more attractive place to work, increasing our ability to attract and retain highly qualified new employees.”
Some students may believe that the reason for this tuition change was to increase enrollment rates. In the future, free tuition might become the number one reason for students to choose Principia. However, Grimmer said that “the primary reason for this change was not made to increase enrollment.”
The overall budget has not been affected by this recent policy change. Because Principia is offering a new tuition discount to the children of Principia employees, the decrease in the financial aid budget will balance out the recent employee benefit budget cuts.
Grimmer said, “The new tuition discount is not expected to incur significant additional expense or savings for Principia as the decrease in the financial aid budget will be offset by added expense to the employee benefit budget. The additional expense to cover the full 100% tuition is expected to amount to less than eight tenths of a percent of Principia’s operating budget.”
After calculating, Gibbs states this eight tenths of a percent “increases the aid budget by approximately $300,000 per year.” Overall, Principia is not losing money or spending more than their annual budget. They are merely pulling a lump sum from their $18 million financial aid budget and applying it to the employee benefit budget. Essentially, Principia is saving money while also showing appreciation to their employees.
Grimmer said, “The benefit enhancement has generated much gratitude from current employees.” Education professor Winnie Needham said, “Well, I was thrilled. …my husband [RC Paul Needham] and I could not believe it. We were so excited! I don’t know how else to say it, we were just thrilled!” When asked about Needham’s thoughts on why she believed the policy was changed, she said, “For us it felt more like it was like an acknowledgment of the way [Principia] values employees bringing their kids to Principia.”
Principia has always valued their students and made sure that money is not the reason why a student could or could not attend Principia. Grimmer said, “Many of Principia’s current employees are now spreading the news and creating interest in others about employment at Principia. It was well received by new hires this year, and the Human Resource department reports that current applicants are expressing excitement about this new benefit. In addition, Human Resources has fielded a number of inquiries from people thinking about applying, asking specifically about this benefit.”
Grimmer concluded, “All this points to the new benefit helping to do what it was designed to do: retain and attract the most qualified and effective employees available to ‘facilitate the steady growth of The Principia’ (EAP. 1986. P. 233, Policy 17).”