Elimination Tuition Reimbursement for all City Employees

Savings: $7.3 million

Currently, the City provides tuition reimbursement to City employees who meet certain criteria.  For most full-time City employees, the coursework “must be related to the employee’s current work or probable future work with the City of Chicago.”[1]  Full-time employees are limited to two classes per semester and those receiving “A” grades are reimbursed at 100 percent of the tuition costs with reduced reimbursement for lower grades.  Additionally, part-time employees receive reimbursement at half the rates of full-time employees.  For most employees, tuition reimbursement is limited to “a yearly entitlement amount set annually during the month of January by the Department of Human Resources.”[2]  However, for employees for whom tuition reimbursement is a term of their collective bargaining agreement, reimbursement is “determined by the nature of the agreement between their union and the City of Chicago.”[3]

If an employee leaves City service within 1 year of obtaining a degree with the help of tuition reimbursement, she is required to repay “all tuition costs related to such degree which have been reimbursed to the employee by the City”.[4]  If they leave between one or two years after obtaining the degree, they must repay the City one-half (50%) of their reimbursed tuition costs.[5]

Under this option, the City would eliminate tuition reimbursement for all City employees.  The table below shows the tuition reimbursement budget for all local funds (excluding the airport funds) in 2011.

Fund Code

Fund Description

Dept #


2011 Appropriation


Corporate Fund


Department of Police



Corporate Fund


Fire Department



Corporate Fund


Department of Human Resources



Library Fund- Maintenance and Operations


Finance General



Water Fund


Department of Human Resources



Sewer Fund


Finance General



Vehicle Fund


Finance General






Eliminating tuition reimbursement would likely save the City $7.3 million in 2012. Implementing this option would require amendments to the City’s current collective bargaining agreements with police officers and firefighters. These agreements expire on June 30, 2012.

Proponents might argue that tuition reimbursement is an unnecessary perk, especially for police officers and firefighters, who can get reimbursed for coursework that is not related to their City positions.  Further, others might argue that the reimbursement is overly generous.


Opponents might argue that this is just one component of the compensation that City employees receive.  Therefore, eliminating it would be akin to a reduction in the pay that these officers negotiated in collective bargaining agreements, likely in exchange for foregoing other benefits.  Additionally, tuition reimbursement incentivizes employees to improve their skills, which in turn makes them more productive employees.

Budget Details


Depts: Human Resources, 38; Police Department, 57;

Fire Department, 59

Bureau: NA
Fund: Corporate Fund, 0100 Approp Code: Tuition Reimbursement and Educational Programs, 0070
The appropriations are located on pages 84, 145, and 185 of the 2011 Annual Appropriation Ordinance.



[1] City of Chicago- Department of Human Resources. “City of Chicago Tuition Reimbursement Policy”. pg. 1

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.