University Research:

U.S. Reimbursement of Tuition Costs for University Employee Family Members

NSIAD-95-19: Published: Feb 15, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 17, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed tuition assistance costs charged to the government for family members of contractor employees performing government-funded university research, focusing on: (1) a comparison of U.S. policies governing payment of these expenses and payment of similar expenses incurred by commercial businesses; (2) the nature and extent of tuition assistance; (3) the costs to the federal government and the agencies involved; and (4) the salary levels of employees whose families receive tuition assistance.

GAO found that: (1) Office of Management and Budget guidance permits educational institutions performing government-funded research to charge for employee family members' tuition assistance costs; (2) federal acquisition regulations specifically prohibit commercial businesses from submitting such charges; (3) tuition assistance by educational institutions, charged to federal research contracts and grants, is a common practice among many universities; (4) four of the five universities visited have tuition assistance programs, but they vary widely in benefits and eligibility requirements; (5) during 1991 through 1993, the four universities charged $17 million, of their $53 million in tuition assistance costs for employee family members, to federal research contracts and grants; (6) federal agencies awarded research contracts and grants worth $2.5 billion to the four universities in 1993; and (7) 45 percent of the four universities' employees receiving tuition assistance benefits had annual salaries of $50,000 or less, 34 percent had annual salaries between $50,000 and $100,000, and 21 percent had annual salaries of over $100,000.

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