April 4, 2008

elevate: Answering the Tough Questions

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Medical Center leadership answers the tough questions about what the elevate program is and what it means for the people who work at VUMC.

Question: Vanderbilt provides college tuition benefits for employees' dependents. What about those of us without children? What is the justification for giving this generous benefit to some while not providing others another benefit of equal value?

Answer: Benefits — tuition programs, insurance and the like — are not paid out to all participants at the same level. That is a fundamental part of building a benefit package that provides for a variety of needs. For instance, not all participants in the Vanderbilt Health Plan use the same number of checkups, sick visits, surgeries and lab work. Even auto insurers build into their pricing and risk evaluation that not all drivers will use the insurance. If they did, the insurance would be so expensive no one could afford it.

We provide equity at a higher level through core benefits — the health plan, life insurance, retirement, and long-term disability. Some employees will make use of one, and others another. The dollars won't be used identically, but employees are able to receive support where they need it.

Remember, funds used for benefits are not available for salary. Vanderbilt could simply increase salaries rather than offer benefits, but then it would be up to individuals to plan for the types of events that the greater pool of benefits can cover. It could take individuals years to save for the event that requires payment. Instead, a strong benefits package like ours provides a safe and sound work environment and personal safety net.

The tuition benefit reflects the institution's mission, its concern for family and its investment in the future. We are proud to be able to offer it along with the other programs that support our faculty, staff and their families.

— Jane Bruce, director, HR Benefits Administration