UChicago promises changes in benefit programs after community pressure


Image Taken from The Chicago Maroon

The first lines of the letter which called upon UChicago to change the structure of its community benefits agreement.

Leland Culver, Midway Reporter

The University of Chicago is promising changes over the next two years to its faculty benefits programs in response to concerns raised by faculty, many of whom are parents of Laboratory Schools students.

The changes are to address the areas of Laboratory Schools tuition, the university’s relationship with public schools, the cost of housing around the university and services available to students with learning differences.

Provost Daniel Diermeier announced these changes in an email sent to all benefits-eligible faculty on April 16, acting on the recommendation of a working group comprised of faculty and administration members.

The Provost said that plans for revision of the Laboratory Schools’ tuition remission benefit would be announced later this year, to be implemented for the 2020-21 school year.

In the email, he said that the changes were in response to a 2017 faculty petition, which was primarily about the rising costs of faculty sending their children to Lab. It stated in particular that the current benefits system does not make it viable for families to send multiple children to Lab or to enroll in extended day. Employees with lower-paying academic positions also found the tuition difficult even with the benefit. The petition stated that many faculty were leaving or considering leaving for these reasons.

“We worry about this exodus harming the cultural identity of Lab and the rich intellectual life cultivated by the University, and we are concerned that future tuition increases will further exacerbate this problem,” the petition stated.

To address the particular needs of diverse learners, most benefits-eligible families will be allocated a substantial portion of the tuition to either City Elementary or Hyde Park Day School in a three-year pilot program. The allocation will be based on household income.

“[The program is] to kind of understand the environment…because right now it’s very very unclear how high the demand will be, where the pressure points are for which schools, et cetera,” said Christine Mehring, chair of the university’s art history department, who served on the working group and who has two kids enrolled at the Lab Schools.

While the Lab tuition remission changes are still being designed, the university stated it is implementing a K-12 resource guide, and the Provost encouraged families to apply for financial aid, stating that the traditional $35 application fee would be waived.

Ms. Mehring said, “My personal understanding is that the Provost is very eager and very committed to trying to address the tuition problems that we laid out.”