Report of Results from Sibson's First Annual College & University Benefits Study


Higher education institutions are extremely interested in how the benefits they provide compare to the offerings of their peers. Sibson Consulting designed and conducted a College & University Benefits Study (CUBS) to collect detailed information about higher education institutions’ benefits, including differences among the benefits offered to faculty, administrative and clerical staff. This report gives an overview of the results from Sibson’s first CUBS, which covers benefits offered in 2012 by over 600 institutions, as well as institutions’ health plan strategies for 2013.

Key CUBS findings include the following:

  • Preferred provider organizations (PPOs)/point-of-service (POS) plans were the most prevalent type of medical coverage in 2012 for 72 percent of institutions in the study.
  • The percentage of medical plan premiums paid by employees for both employee-only and family coverage in 2012 were lowest for those covered by a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), as an inducement for employees to enroll in that type of coverage.
  • Educating faculty and staff about cost-effective use of their health benefits is an important part of institutions’ 2013 health strategy with a majority of institutions indicating that this is a major initiative.
  • Wellness is a clear priority, with 55 percent of the institutions in the study offering weight-loss programs, tobacco-cessation programs, flu shots and health-risk assessments — and 73 percent allowing employees to use the campus fitness center.
  • The types of retiree health benefits offered to employees of public and private institutions differ. For example, public institutions are more likely than private institutions to offer retiree health benefits to new hires (87 percent vs. 66 percent), and private institutions are more likely than public institutions to offer an account-based defined contribution (DC) retiree health plan to new hires (29 percent vs. 7 percent).
  • Pension offerings also differed between institutions in the private and public sectors. All private institutions offered DC retirement-income plans and only 5 percent offered defined benefit (DB) pension plans. In contrast, 79 percent of public institutions offered both DB and DC plans.
  • Institutions’ median contribution to their DC retiree income plans was 10 percent of compensation, which is more than three times greater than the median seen in the corporate sector.
  • Tuition benefits are a valuable tool for recruiting and retention, with competitive differences arising from how institutions incorporate limits, such as waiting periods, the number of credits available, where courses can be taken and who is eligible for this benefit.
  • There are some differences in the benefits offered to faculty, administrative staff and clerical staff. Tuition, retirement and paid-leave benefits tend to be where those differences are greatest. For most other benefits, however, the differences, if any, tend to be minor.
  • Institutions offer a wide range of non-traditional benefits (e.g., group auto insurance and legal services) that employees value and many of which have no cost to the institution.

The report concludes with observations on the findings, comments on opportunities that institutions may want to consider and some notes about developments that may affect the outlook for benefits.

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