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Reduced Tuition for Feds, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

The Office of Personnel Management last week announced that it had reached agreements with six colleges and universities to join a program offering reduced tuition to federal employees, bringing the total number of participating schools to 23.

The institutions will join the Federal Academic Alliance, which provides discounted tuition for post-secondary education for federal workers as part of a program aimed at addressing critical skills gaps in the federal workforce. Among the new additions are American University’s Key Executive Leadership Master’s Degree in Public Administration, Bellevue University, Columbia College, Georgetown University’s Biomedical Graduate Education, the University of Louisville, and Michigan State University’s College of Business.

“The Federal Academic Alliance provides federal employees and their families improved access to obtaining bachelor and master’s degrees,” said acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan, in a statement. “We will continue to work with colleges and universities to provide the federal workforce with opportunities to obtain the education they need to meet today’s federal workplace challenges, address critical skills gaps in mission critical occupations, increase federal employees’ access to high-quality, affordable educational resources, and further develop and retain the federal workforce.”

In a memo to chief human capital officers, McGettigan outlined the deals available to federal workers at each of the new schools joining the program. American University will offer 25% tuition reduction and waive application fees to federal workers; Bellevue will offer a 20% tuition discount and waive application fees for feds, their spouses and dependents; and Columbia College provides a 15% tuition discount with no fees and with books included for federal employees, spouses and dependents under 25.

Georgetown University will provide a 15% tuition “scholarship” to federal workers; Louisville will offer a 10% discount on tuition for online programs with reduced application fees for feds; while Michigan State will offer 10% reduced tuition for some graduate programs and 15% off some certificate programs to federal workers, spouses and dependents.

Lawmakers Push for Locality Pay Parity for Feds

Democrats in both chambers of Congress this week reintroduced legislation that would provide parity in locality pay for General Schedule and blue collar federal employees.

Currently, the General Schedule and Federal Wage Grade system operate using two different locality pay systems. While the GS pay scale’s locality pay system is updated annually by the president’s pay agent, based on recommendations from the advisory Federal Salary Council, the Federal Wage Grade system’s locality pay has remained largely unchanged since the 1950s, and is centered primarily around military installations.

Two new bills in Congress—H.R. 3086, introduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Penn., and S. 1561, introduced by Sen. Robert Casey, D-Penn., would “equalize” local pay boundaries and prohibit there being more than one local wage area within a General Schedule pay locality, effectively providing parity across the two pay scales. It also includes a provision ensuring that no federal employee would see a pay decrease as a result of the changes.

American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley quickly endorsed the legislation in a statement Wednesday.

“Currently, salaried and hourly federal employees can work side-by-side in the exact same location yet be treated as though they work in different locations when it comes to determining their locality pay,” he said. “Federal employees in the skilled trades commute along the same routes and face the same living costs as their salaried coworkers, and there is no rational reason why the government pretends they are in different locations once they arrive at work.”