826 Educational Leave

Approved by President
Effective Date: June 5, 2017
Responsible Division: Business and Finance
Responsible Office:  Human Resource Services
Responsible Officer:  Assistant Vice President, Human Resource Services

I.  Purpose

This policy establishes the criteria and process regarding educational leave for employees at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU or University).

II.  Introduction

A.  It is the policy of MTSU to provide time off to regular MTSU employees, to continue their education and/or participate in research, grants, or fellowships on a full-time basis.

B.  Requests for educational leave for regular employees must be approved in advance by the President or designee. Such approval must specify the length of the leave, which normally should not exceed twelve (12) months.

C.  Each request for leave will be evaluated on its own merits and approval will depend upon the evidence provided as to the enhancement of the employee's value to MTSU resulting from the leave.

D.  Leave of absence for periods exceeding one (1) year may be granted upon recommendation of the Department Head/Dean and approved by the President or designee as stated in Policy 825 Leave Policies.

III.  Educational Leave of Absence with Pay

A.  Employees on educational leave of absence and receiving compensation through the payroll system of MTSU, regardless of the original source of the funds, are eligible for the following benefits:

1.  Retirement. Refer to Section V., Retirement Credit, for procedures to request retirement credit.

a  Regular full-time employees who have received final approval from MTSU and the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) for the period of the leave will continue to accrue creditable service and/or to have employer contributions paid on their behalf.

b.  Individuals who receive TCRS approval and who continue in the retirement program should not participate simultaneously in any other retirement system.

c.  Employees whose request for retirement credit is denied by TCRS will be removed from participation in the retirement program for the duration of the leave.

2.  Basic Group Insurance

a.  Employees on approved educational leave may continue their participation in the basic group insurance program.

b.  The employee's portion of the premium will be withheld by payroll deduction and MTSU will pay the employer's portion.

c.  The amount of the deduction and scheduled life insurance coverage will be the deduction and life insurance schedule in effect immediately prior to the beginning of the leave.

3.  Other Group Insurance

a.  Employees may, at their option, continue membership in other group insurance plans available to active employees.

b.  In all such plans, except the group medical/life insurance plan noted above, the full cost of the plan is paid by the employee.

c.  These premiums will be withheld by payroll deduction in accordance with established procedures.

4.  Unemployment Compensation Benefits. MTSU will provide unemployment benefits based on the provisions of State and Federal unemployment compensation acts.

5.  Social Security. Employees will continue participation in Social Security with coverage and applicable taxes based on the compensation paid during the leave.

6.  Federal Withholding Tax. Federal withholding taxes will be based on compensation paid to the employee during the leave and upon the applicable withholding tables.

7.  Longevity Pay. Employees are considered to be eligible for longevity pay, and payments will be made on the regular schedule.

8.  Educational Assistance. Refer to the eligibility requirements contained in the various educational assistance programs in Policy 830 Faculty and Staff Support for Educational Expenses and Policy 829 Educational Assistance: MTSU Employee Tuition Waiver.

B.  Employees will continue to accrue leave based on their position at the time the educational leave is approved.

IV.  Educational Leave of Absence Without Pay

A.  Employees on an approved educational leave of absence and receiving no compensation from MTSU are eligible for the following benefits:

1.  Retirement. Refer to Section V., Retirement Credit, for procedures to request retirement credit. Employees who have received approval from MTSU and TCRS will receive retirement credit for the period of the leave.

2.  Basic Group Insurance

a.  Employees are eligible to continue their participation in the group medical/life insurance program or they may elect to suspend coverage.

b.  If they elect continuation of coverage, employees must pay both the employee and employer share of the premium.

c.  The premiums paid for health and basic life insurance coverage will be the rate and life insurance schedule in effect immediately prior to the beginning of the leave.

3.  Other Group Insurance

a.  Employees may, at their option, continue membership in other group insurance plans available to eligible employees.

b.  In all such plans, the full cost of the plan is paid by the employee.

4.  Educational Assistance. Refer to the eligibility requirements contained in the various educational assistance programs in Policy 830 Faculty and Staff Support for Educational Expenses and Policy 829 Educational Assistance: MTSU Employee Tuition Waiver.

B.  Employees on an approved educational leave of absence and receiving no compensation from MTSU are not eligible for the following benefits:

1.  Unemployment Compensation Benefits.

2.  Social Security. MTSU will not make any contributions.

3.  Longevity Pay. Longevity is not payable, nor is the period considered as eligible service.

4.  Leave Benefits. Employees are not eligible to accrue or use annual, sick, or other leave benefits during the period not worked.

5.  Educational Assistance. Refer to the eligibility requirements contained in the various educational assistance programs in Policy 830 Faculty and Staff Support for Educational Expenses and Policy 829 Educational Assistance: MTSU Employee Tuition Waiver.

V.  Retirement Credit

A.  An Application for Retirement Credit for Educational Leave of Absence form should be submitted along with a written request for a leave of absence to the President or designee and the Budget Office. If the leave request is approved, the application for retirement credit should then be forwarded to the TCRS. The TCRS Board of Trustees is responsible for granting final approval for retirement credit.

B.  To be considered for retirement credit, the leave must be for the purpose of attending school or engaging in academic research related to employment, and must be intended to increase the employee's usefulness to MTSU. Approval by TCRS is granted conditionally upon the employee's immediate return to employment after the leave for a period of at least one (1) year of service. An individual may not receive retirement credit for educational leave in excess of two (2) years during the individual's lifetime.

C.  Example of the types of leave which will be considered for retirement credit is as follows:

1.  The leave is for formal study at an institution of higher education leading to an advanced degree in a field relevant to the faculty/staff member's area of professional responsibility.

2.  The leave is for a formal period of research or post-doctoral study in a field related to the faculty/staff member's area of professional responsibility. Such leaves will include, but not be limited to, periods of study supported by grants, such as the Guggenheim, Fullbright-Hays, Rockefeller Foundation, or Ford Foundation fellowship.

3.  In rare cases, retirement credit will be allowed for an approved educational leave for formal study leading to an undergraduate degree or professional certification directly related to enhancing an employee's ability to perform his/her job. A written statement justifying the leave must be provided and approved by the President or designee.

When retirement credit is approved for an educational leave of absence, creditable service and/or contributions will be made based on the retirement plan the employee is enrolled in immediately prior to the leave.

Forms:  none.

Revisions: none.

References: Policies 825 Leave Policies; 829 Educational Assistance: MTSU Employee Tuition Waiver; 830 Faculty and Staff Support for Educational Expenses.