• SPU HR Homepage
   • SPU HR FAQs
   • SPU Homepage

Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

What is the Tuition Discount Benefit?

As an encouragement to long-term employment service, the University provides tuition discount benefits to assist eligible employees and their eligible spouses in earning their first undergraduate, masters and/or doctoral degree(s), and eligible dependent children in earning their first undergraduate degree.

Subject to limitations, the benefit may also be used for classes taken for personal interest for the employee and/or dependents, and for approved professional development for the employee.

The tuition discount benefit is intended to be a qualifying IRC section 117 scholarship provided to employees of higher education institutions, unless otherwise specified, e.g., graduate students. While the University encourages eligible employees to use the tuition benefit, employees are expected to give work responsibilities priority over classes.

This policy is subject to change.

Table of Contents

Schedule of Benefits

Effective July 1, 2005, regular full-time employees (.80 FTE for staff, .75 FTE for faculty) and their eligible family members may apply for tuition benefits based on the employee’s years of service: 

Tuition Discount Schedule

Years of Employment

Employee, Spouse, and Dependent Children Undergraduate Tuition

Non-Dependent Children Undergraduate Tuition

 Employee and Spouse Graduate Tuition

Less than 1 

Waiting period – no benefit  

Waiting period – no benefit  

Waiting period – no benefit  

Greater than 1 but less than 2  




Greater than 2 but less than 3  




Greater than 3 but less than 4  




Greater than 4 but less than 5  




Greater than 5  




  • "Years of employment" is determined at each anniversary date of continuous full-time employment and the corresponding discount applies for the first academic quarter beginning after such anniversary date.
  • Under current IRS regulations (section 127), tuition benefits for the employee's graduate course work in excess of $5,250 is considered a taxable benefit and will be shown in the employee's payroll FICA taxes. It is also subject to employee and employer FICA taxes. 
  • Under current IRS regulations, tuition benefits for the spouse's graduate work and non-dependent children discount are considered taxable benefits and will be shown on the employee's payroll information as taxable income for federal tax purposes. These amounts are also subject to employee and employer FICA taxes.

Policy implementation for employees beginning full-time employment before July 1, 2005 ("grandfathering" of benefits)

For employees of the University beginning full-time employment before July 1, 2005, spouse and  dependent undergraduate tuition discount benefits (excluding study tours) will be 90%, nondependent undergraduate tuition discount benefits will be 80% and spouse graduate tuition discount benefits will be 80% (the discounts in effect prior to July 1, 2005).   All employees, regardless of years of service, who began full-time employment before July 1, 2005, will receive a 90% tuition discount on both employee undergraduate and employee graduate credits.  Credits may only be taken above the first five undergraduate credits or first three graduate credits upon supervisor approval. All other employee tuition discount benefits, limitations and exclusions will apply.


Eligible Classes and Programs

The tuition discount benefit will apply only to courses for which regular campus-based tuition rates apply. This benefit does not apply to Spiral, 5000 level courses or to classes taken for audit, except as noted below.

SPU Study Abroad Programs are eligible for the tuition benefit discount with certain restrictions. See “Limitations and Exclusions” below.  

Audited courses and some other programs may qualify if they are approved by the employee's supervisor as part of a professional development program. To apply for the tuition benefit for an audited course or a special program, the employee must ask their supervisor to submit a memo to the Office of Human Resources approving the course or program as contributing to professional development. The Office of Human Resources will notify you and your supervisor as to whether an exception can be approved.

Eligible Employees

Regular full-time employees (.80 FTE for staff, .75 FTE for faculty)

Eligible Family Members

  • Spouse: Legal spouse of an eligible employee.
  • Dependent child: A child of an eligible employee by birth or adoption, who is under age 24 at the start of the quarter for which the discount is to be applied and is claimed as a dependent on the employee’s tax return.
  • Non-dependent Child: A child of an eligible employee by birth or adoption, who is under age 24 at the start of the quarter for which the discount is to be applied and is not claimed as a dependent on the employee’s tax return and is pursuing a first baccalaureate degree. Under current IRS regulations, tuition benefits for nondependent children are considered taxable income and will be shown on the employee's payroll information as such for federal tax purposes. The tuition discount benefit for non-dependent children is available only to children of employees.  It is not available under any of the tuition exchange programs.

Graduate Study

  • Graduate classes are registered and administered with the particular graduate school.
  • Some graduate course work may be excluded under this benefit at the University's sole discretion. For specific information, contact the Office of Human Resources.

Determining Years of Service and Credit for Prior Service at SPU or another Accredited Institution

For purposes of determining years of employment, the employee’s anniversary date of continuous full-time employment with Seattle Pacific University is based on total years worked through the anniversary date prior to the academic quarter the discount is to be applied. For determining continuous full-time employment all years of part-time service (years of service where the employee is less than full-time for over 50% of the year preceding the employee’s anniversary date), will be excluded in the count of years of service for the tuition discount benefit. The term “continuous,” in the context of this policy, is the sum of all years of regular full-time service at the University from the most recent hire date.

Employees returning to employment with the University after a break in service will be given credit for prior years of service with SPU providing the length of the break in service does not exceed the original years of service as a regular employee.

In some instances, credit may be available for years of service with another accredited institution. To determine whether service at another institution will qualify toward SPU’s tuition discount, please submit a written memo to the Office of Human Resources that includes the following: your name, name of the institution you worked for previously, your beginning and ending date of employment with the other institution, your position there, and whether your status was full- or part-time. Please include a copy of your annual W-2 forms as verification of your employment at the other institution.

Limitations & Exclusions

  1. The tuition benefit is applied to tuition costs only. No discount is applied to mandatory fees, materials costs, books, or room and board.
  2. The tuition discount may be used for regular instruction taken in pursuit of an SPU degree, provided such degree is the first undergraduate, masters, or doctoral degree for the individual.  The discount may be given to employees or dependents for personal interest classes (non-matriculated students or students who have already earned their first degree) based on space available, at the discretion of the University. It does not apply to certain graduate level courses nor to certifications earned apart from the pursuit of a degree.
  3. Matriculated spouses and children of eligible employees utilizing the tuition discount must complete their pursuit of a degree within five years of first receiving the tuition discount. Courses taken beyond that five-year period will not be eligible for the discount. The five year limitation may be extended if the spouse or dependent experiences a break in enrollment, due to their own serious health condition or similar reason. Requests for extension should be submitted to the office of Human Resources for approval.
  4. Should the eligible employee, spouse, dependent or nondependent child be awarded any other SPU gift aid, the tuition discount benefit shall be reduced, if necessary, so that the combined tuition discount benefit and these other awards will not exceed the cost of tuition for any one quarter. 
    1. Dependents of employees who are enrolled during academic year 2005-06 and continue to be enrolled in 2006-07 and beyond will continue to have future SPU gift aid applied in the same manner as applied in 2005-06. Distinguished Scholar Award (formerly SPU Scholar Award) recipients, athletic scholarship recipients, and peer advisor scholarship recipients are covered under separate policy. 
    2. For those students who are financial aid applicants, the tuition discount benefit is considered a resource when computing a student's eligibility for other sources of financial assistance. Tuition costs paid out-of-pocket are subject to the standard tuition refund policy. Please contact Student Financial Services if you have specific questions about the integration of the tuition discount benefit with other SPU gift aid.
  5. Tuition discount percentages will not be changed during the middle of a quarter.
  6. The tuition benefit is allowed for SPU Study Abroad Programs with certain restrictions. The study tour program must apply directly towards a first graduate or undergraduate degree; is only available to SPU matriculated, degree seeking students; and is limited to one study abroad discount per eligible student.   The tuition benefit applies only toward tuition charges and is calculated in accordance with the above outlined rate schedule.  Tuition benefit discounts do not apply to study programs offered through CCCU or Visit/Transfer Programs.
  7. Full-time employees are normally expected to take no more than five undergraduate credits per quarter (three credits, if graduate) and together with review by their supervisor must ensure that job performance is not adversely impacted by their academic program requirements.
  8. Spouses and eligible children (as defined above) of eligible employees whose capacity to serve the University is terminated by death or disability will remain eligible for the tuition discount benefit. The University reserves the right to deny benefits depending on individual circumstances such as the remarriage of the spouse. The tuition discount, if allowed, will be based on the tuition discount schedule in place at the time of attendance and will be based on the employee’s eligible years-of-service at the time of the employee’s death or disability.
  9. Tuition discount for the employee and dependents may continue through the remainder of the quarter then in session, if resignation is effective after the tenth day of class.

Tuition Exchange Programs with Institutions in the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and Christian College Consortium (CCC)

Seattle Pacific University is a member of both the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities and the Christian College Consortium. Through the Tuition Exchange Scholarship programs offered by these groups, there are opportunities for dependents of SPU employees to attend some other institutions and receive a tuition discount benefit. Tuition Exchange scholarships are available on a limited basis, at the discretion of the receiving school, at discount rates set by the receiving institution. Recipients of the Tuition Exchange benefit from SPU are not eligible for the discount for summer quarter courses. This program is coordinated through the Office of the Vice President for Finance and Business Affairs.

As a general rule, the dependent child must have applied for admission to the desired institution before submission of a Tuition Exchange application, although acceptance prior to granting a Tuition Exchange Scholarship is at the discretion of the receiving institution. Once the child has applied for admission to the desired school, the employee should provide a written note to the Vice President for Finance and Business Affairs, which includes the name of the institution, the academic year the child will attend the school, the name of the child, home address, and the last four digits of the child's social security number. The Vice President's Office will then send the Tuition Exchange application to the receiving institution and the employee will be notified upon acceptance or rejection by the desired institution.