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6 Employee Benefits

The following section provides a summary of benefits The Texas A&M University System and Tarleton provide. Detailed descriptions of the benefits available for employees and their eligible dependents can be found at www.tamus.edu/offices/shro or by contacting your Department of Employee Services representative at 254-968-9128 in Stephenville or 254-519-5457.

Retirement

Participation in the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) is a condition of employment for Tarleton State University’s regular faculty and staff members. However, full-time faculty and certain non-classified employees may elect to participate in the Optional Retirement Program (ORP) instead of TRS. The A&M System defines a regular employee as one budgeted for 50% time or more for 4 1/2 months or more.(See System Policy 31.02, Employee Insurance and Retirement Benefits.)

Teacher Retirement System of Texas

Under TRS and current legislative guidelines, the university reduces a specified percent from the employee's gross earnings and pays this amount to the retirement system. Each September, the university also deducts a nominal membership fee. The State of Texas also contributes a specified percent of the member's annual salary to the retirement system, distributing contributions to the individual’s credit in the state retirement fund and crediting interest annually to the individual member's account. Employees may contact the Department of Employee Services for the current employee and state contribution percentages.

TRS provides three basic benefits to its participants: retirement benefits, disability benefits, and survivor and death benefits. Each of these benefits varies according to an employee’s age, salary, and length of service. The formula TRS uses for computing retirement benefits depends on the employee’s years of TRS service and age on September 1, 2005; more information and benefit calculators can be found at www.trs.state.tx.us/global.jsp?page_id=/global/calculators.

A university employee who has made TRS deposits is entitled to a refund with interest of those deposits upon termination of employment or ineligibility for TRS membership. A form to request refund of deposits (TRS 6) is available at the Department of Employee Services. Employee services cannot process this form until it has processed the approved termination action. TRS cannot make a final refund until it receives the withdrawing member’s final deposit and posts it to his or her account. Members may expect a 60-day wait after TRS receives the final deposit and application for refund before their refunds are processed and mailed. If an employee is accepts reemployment in a position eligible for TRS membership before he or she receives the refund, the employee must return the refund to TRS. If TRS makes a refund erroneously, the law requires TRS to secure the redeposit of the withdrawn account. Questions about TRS refunds should be directed to the Department of Employee Services.(See System Regulation 31.02.08, Teacher Retirement System of Texas.)

Optional Retirement Program

All the university’s regular full-time faculty, and certain non-classified university employees appointed on or after May 1, 1969, and otherwise eligible may elect to participate in the Optional Retirement Program (ORP) instead of TRS.

Under ORP, the university reduces, in monthly installments, a specified percent of the annual salary of each participant. The State of Texas also contributes a specified percent of the participant's annual salary. These funds are deposited to the credit of the participant with any system-authorized vendor the participant designates. The deposits credited to a participant under ORP are used to produce benefits under a fixed and/or variable annuity plan. Employees may contact employee services for the current percentages of employee and state contributions.

Eligible personnel are allowed 90 days from the date of employment to elect participation in the ORP. If a new employee does not elect for ORP participation on the first day of employment, he or she automatically becomes a member of TRS with the right to change to ORP within 90 days and apply for a refund of the university’s TRS contribution. Any individual who is ORP eligible, but who declines to exercise this option until sometime during the 90-day eligibility, will forfeit the contributions made by the State to TRS unless the individual (a) ceases to be employed by an institution of higher education; (b) drops below 100% FTE; or (c) becomes employed by the Texas public school system other than in an institution of higher education. Any person not exercising the option to participate in the Optional Retirement Program during the applicable option period shall be determined to have chosen to continue membership in the Teacher Retirement System.

A university employee who has made any deposits under ORP is entitled to a refund upon employment termination. The director of employee services completes a form that authorizes the employee's ORP carrier to release the funds. If the employee is vested under ORP, both the employee's contribution and the State's contribution are released to the employee. If the employee is not vested, the ORP carrier is required to release only the employee's deposits, and the State's contributions must be returned to the university. The ORP vesting period is one year and one day, beginning when the employee elects to participate in ORP.

At termination, employees are urged to seek the assistance of their vendor representative(s) for advice on their accumulated funds’ disposition under ORP.(See System Regulation 31.02.09, Optional Retirement Program.)

General Policy and Process

Employment with Tarleton State University is predicated at all times upon each individual's ability to perform satisfactory service in normal and expected assignments. Retirement from employment with Tarleton will occur when an employee (a) elects to retire under the provisions of the Teacher Retirement System or Optional Retirement Program; (b) elects to participate in the Texas A&M System's Early Retirement Program with Modified Service; or (c) sustains disabilities preventing continued active employment (as determined on a case-by-case basis).

Persons contemplating retirement under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas or the Optional Retirement Program should contact the Department of Employee Services at least 90 days in advance of their anticipated retirement date so that appropriate advance preparations can be completed. If advance preparations are not completed, the person's receipt of annuity payments could be delayed, with a consequent loss of benefit income, because retirement payments are not made retroactively.

The Department of Employee Services provides counseling to employees interested in obtaining an estimate of annuity payments or annuity value, furnishes information concerning employment after retirement, assists with completion of required forms and documents, and determines eligibility for continued coverage under life and medical insurance policies.

Early Retirement with Modified Service

The Texas A&M System designed its Early Retirement with Modified Service (ER/MS) program to allow employees an option to retire from full-time service after age 55 and begin benefiting from retirement annuities while still contributing to the university through reduced-service employment. Full-time regular employees of the university may request participation in ER/MS at age 55 or thereafter if (a) they have credit for five or more years with the Texas’s Teacher Retirement System or five or more years of participation in the Optional Retirement Program, or five or more years of participation with a combination of TRS and ORP, and (b) under current policy, they would otherwise be eligible for continued employment.

Participation in the ER/MS program is not a right of employees and will be approved only when it can be shown to be in the best interests of the university.

Reemployment in the ER/MS program after retirement involves a university commitment to employ the participant through a specific date, subject to normal rules for dismissal, after which date the university has no obligation to offer continued employment to the ER/MS participant.(See System Regulation 31.07.01, Retirement and Employment after Retirement for additional details.)

Mandatory Retirement

At Tarleton, there is no mandatory retirement age, with the following exception: employees who are in a bona fide executive or high policymaking position for the 2-year period immediately before retirement and who are entitled to an immediate non-forfeitable annual retirement benefit may be retired at the end of the fiscal year in which their 65th birthday occurs or anytime thereafter at the option of the board. Additionally, the chancellor may establish a mandatory retirement age standard for certain employment classifications where age is a bona fide occupational qualification. (See System Regulation 31.07, Retirement.)

Group Insurance Programs

The State of Texas provides a monthly contribution for the eligible employee's basic life and health insurance coverage.

Health Insurance

All budgeted employees are eligible to enroll themselves and their eligible dependents in one of several health insurance plans. Out-of-pocket premiums for those employees electing any type of family health coverage will be paid automatically, via payroll deduction, with pre-tax dollars unless the employee waives this procedure.

Basic Life Insurance

Budgeted employees are enrolled in the life insurance plan, which provides the employee with $5,000 of group life insurance and $5,000 of accidental death and dismemberment coverage. The state's monthly contribution may be used to pay for participation in this insurance plan.

Optional Life Insurance

Budgeted employees are eligible to purchase an additional amount of group term life insurance. The amount of coverage is based on the employee's salary. Employees may elect coverage from 1/2 to 6 times the annual salary, not to exceed a maximum of $1,000,000. Coverage of 5 or 6 times the annual salary requires evidence of insurability.

Dependent Life Insurance

Term insurance for eligible dependents is available at group rates and offers two options. Option A provides coverage for the spouse equal to 50% of the employee's optional life insurance and for each child 10% of the employee’s optional life insurance. Option B provides $5,000 coverage for the spouse and each eligible dependent child.

Long-Term Disability Income Insurance (LTD)

Regular employees are eligible for this insurance, which provides a monthly income to an employee who becomes totally disabled through sickness or injury. The amount of monthly income provided will be 65% of the basic monthly salary the employee was earning at the onset of disability minus other disability benefits he/she is eligible for. The premium is based on the employee's current salary. For further information regarding this plan, contact the Department of Employee Services.

Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D)

Budgeted employees are eligible to purchase AD&D insurance to provide coverage against certain types of dismemberment or death from any type of accident, on or off the job. The employee's family may be included on this policy. These benefits are payable in addition to any other coverage which may be in effect. Employees may purchase up to $250,000 of coverage in $10,000 increments, regardless of their annual budgeted salary. If an employee’s annual salary exceeds $25,000, he/she can buy up to 10 times the annual salary with a maximum coverage of $800,000. The coverage amount available to the employee's family is based on a percentage of the employee's amount of insurance.

Long-Term Care (LTC)

Long-term care insurance is available to eligible employees or retirees, spouses, and parents of employees. Evidence of insurability is not required for the employee and spouse if elected within 31 days of the effective date of employment, but it is required for retirees and parents of employees to apply for coverage.

This plan provides benefits for medical and/or custodial care in a nursing facility, at home, or at an adult day care center due to severe illness or injury or chronic condition(s).

Workers' Compensation

All university employees are covered by workers' compensation insurance that follows the general laws of Texas regarding the benefits available to participants. Benefits include provisions for medicines, medical care, hospitalization, and surgery necessary for recovery from both disabling and non-disabling injuries sustained during the course of employment; compensation for time lost from employment; and specific benefits for death resulting from injury during the course of employment.

An employee must report any injuries sustained on the job to his or her supervisor immediately even if the injury does not appear serious. All accidents must be reported within 30 days of occurrence. For more information see the Texas Department of Insurance Division of Workers’ Compensation website at http://www.tdi.state.tx.us/wc/indexwc.html or contact the Department of Employee Services.

Tax-Saver Plan

Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code allows payment of certain qualified expenses (health care and dependent day care expenses) on a pre-tax basis. The tax-saver plan is a tax shelter. An employee may participate through a salary reduction agreement, which he or she may enter into once a year and must renew yearly for continued participation.

Additional Retirement Savings Options

Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) Program

All university personnel are eligible to participate in the Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) program. This program allows any member of the faculty or staff to sign a salary reduction agreement in an amount of 100% or less of the employee’s salary that the employee determines for investment in a tax-deferred annuity (or annuities). Those who elect to participate in the program must carefully consider the total contributions remitted on a tax-deferred basis under the Teacher Retirement System, the Optional Retirement Programs, or The Texa$aver Deferred Compensation Program. The employee and the soliciting agents or companies are responsible for calculating the maximum exclusion allowance. Each faculty or staff member will select, from a list of authorized companies available at the Department of Employee Services, the company from which his or her non-forfeitable annuity contracts will be purchased. For more information on the Tax-Deferred Annuity Program, see www.tamus.edu/offices/shro/retirement/

Texa$aver Deferred Compensation Program

The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA) made great enhancements to the Texa$aver Deferred Compensation Program. This is a voluntary program in which employees can participate in addition to their participation in other retirement plans such as Texas’s Teacher Retirement System, the Optional Retirement Program and the Tax-Deferred Annuity Program. For more information on the Deferred Compensation Program (Texa$aver), see www.texasaver.com or www.tamus.edu/offices/shro/retirement/.

United States Savings Bonds

Application cards and current information about purchasing savings bonds through payroll deduction are available in the Department of Employee Services.

Social Security (O.A.S.I.)

Most Tarleton State University employees are subject to the federal Old Age Survivor Insurance (OASI) provisions under a special act of the Legislature providing for contributions for state agency employees.  Employees receive the same retirement, survivor, disability and death benefits OASI provides for any person participating in the Social Security program. The State of Texas pays a benefit replacement amount to offset a portion of the employee’s social security contribution, up to $16,500 maximum earnings per year. Employees hired on or after September 1, 1995, are not eligible for this benefit replacement amount.

Any employee desiring detailed information about Social Security contributions or benefits should call the nearest Social Security office.

Unemployment Compensation

Tarleton State University employees are covered by the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act. This coverage allows the university to offer its employees unemployment compensation benefits equivalent to those offered in industry. Any questions concerning unemployment compensation benefits and claims should be directed to the Department of Employee Services.

Extended Pay Plan

Employees who have less than a 12 month appointment may elect to have their salaries spread over 12 months. The human resources office can provide more information about the extended pay plan.

Leave Program

Vacation and System Holidays

All regular employees (except teaching faculty with less than 12-month budgeted appointments) will earn vacation time. Employees earn vacation time in proportion to the percentage of employment and longevity, with credit for prior state service. An employee must work six continuous months before being eligible to take vacation, and no payment is made if termination occurs before the end of six months. If an employee transfers directly to another state agency without a break in service, vacation time cannot be paid in a lump sum payment; it must be transferred to the receiving agency. At termination of university employment, the employee will receive a full lump sum payment for accrued vacation; or, if the department agrees, remain on the payroll for the period of his or her accrued vacation.

All regular employees receive A&M System holidays. The Board of Regents establishes the holiday schedule each year. Employees who work on a scheduled holiday will be entitled to equivalent time off with pay to be taken during the 12-month period following the end of the work week in which the holiday occurred and on such day(s) as the employee and his or her supervisor may mutually agree upon. Eligibility for holiday pay is normally predicated upon an employee being in a paid status the day before the holiday begins. An employee may use accrued vacation to observe Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Good Friday, or any other holy day. (A “religious holy day” means a holy day observed by a religion whose places of worship are exempt from property taxation.)

Sick Leave with Pay

Regular employees (including faculty) who are budgeted for at least 50% FTE for 4-1/2 months and do not require student status as a condition for employment are entitled to sick leave with pay. Full-time employees will earn sick leave at the rate of eight hours for each month or fraction of a month of employment. Eligible part-time employees accrue sick leave on a percentage basis for the time worked, e.g., half-time employees earn four hours per month. The rate of accrual does not change according to months of service. There is no maximum to the amount of sick leave an employee may accrue. There is no probationary period before an employee can use sick leave. It may be used the first month a person is employed.

An employee who transfers directly from one state agency or institution to another or from one A&M System member to another, without a break in service, will be given credit by the receiving agency or institution for the unused balance of accumulated sick leave. On termination of employment, sick leave will not accrue nor be taken while employee remains on the payroll as an optional method of receiving pay for accumulated vacation.

An employee may take sick leave with pay when sickness, injury, or pregnancy and confinement prevent the employee’s performance of duty, or when the employee is needed to care for and assist a member of his or her immediate family who is actually ill. Immediate family is defined as those individuals related by kinship, adoption, or marriage, or foster children (so certified by the Department of Human Services) and are living in the same household.

An employee’s use of sick leave for family members not residing in that employee’s household is strictly limited to the time necessary to provide care and assistance to a child, parent or spouse of the employee that needs such care and assistance as a direct result of a documented medical condition.

Employees must document and report use of sick leave as described in the “Reporting Leave Requested/Taken” section of this handbook.

Employees who are absent from duty because of illness will notify the supervisor of the fact at the earliest possible time. Upon return to duty, an employee will, without delay, report the reason for absence to the supervisor. This requirement also applies to all faculty members, even though no classes were missed, if the absence occurred during the normal workday for regular employees.

For absences of more than three continuous days, the employee must submit a physician’s statement indicating the cause or nature of the illness, its duration and the estimated date of recovery.

Malingering and other abuses of sick leave entitlement will constitute grounds for dismissal.

No lump-sum compensation for unused sick leave is authorized when employment is terminated for any reason other than death. An employee who is retiring under the Teacher Retirement System may be eligible to purchase one year of service credit if he or she has at least 400 hours of accumulated state sick leave. (See System Regulation 31.03.02, Sick Leave, and Tarleton Rule 31.03.02.T1, Sick Leave.)

Sick Leave Pool

Tarleton has established a sick leave pool for all eligible employees who have exhausted their sick leave and vacation leave due to a catastrophic illness or injury which would otherwise force the employee to lose income from the state. For this purpose, a catastrophic illness or injury is a severe condition or combination of conditions affecting the mental or physical health of the employee or the immediate family and that requires the services of a licensed practitioner for a prolonged period of time in excess of 160 working hours. The maximum benefit is 1/3 of the pool balance or up to 90 working days.

Employees may contribute their sick leave to the sick leave pool at any time.

Contribution must be in 8 hour increments, and employees can contact the Department of Employee Services for sick leave pool contribution forms.

To qualify for use of the sick leave pool, an employee must exhaust all leave—sick leave, vacation, and compensatory time—in order to request a withdrawal. There is no probationary period to be met prior to requesting hours from the pool. An employee does not have to contribute time to the sick leave pool to request a withdrawal.

An eligible employee may also use sick leave pool hours for an illness or injury other than that of a "catastrophic" nature if that individual has contributed to the sick leave pool and has exhausted his or her sick leave balance. Such an employee may receive no more than the total number of hours he or she contributed.

Pregnancy is not treated as a catastrophic illness except in cases where severe illness and prolonged complications arise with respect to either the mother or the child.

Under no circumstances can an employee use the sick leave pool for a workers' compensation related injury or disease.

An employee should contact the human resources department for exact information on the documentation that office requires and requirements that he or she must meet as soon as there is an indication that he or she might need to access the sick leave pool. (See System Regulation 31.06.01, Sick Leave Pool Administration and Tarleton Rule 31.06.01.T1.)

Leave of Absence with Pay

Emergency Leave

Tarleton provides emergency leaves of absence with pay in the event of the death of a family member or friend. For details on eligibility and amount of paid leave given, see Tarleton Rule 31.03.03.T1, Emergency Leaves of Absence with Pay. An emergency leave request form should be completed at the time of the leave and sent through for approval. If for some reason all or part of the time is not approved, this time must be charged to appropriate available leave. The leave form should follow the signature order at the bottom of the form. Staff must have signatures through the vice president for finance and administration. The emergency leave form may be obtained through a department head, the human resources department, or on the internet at: www.tarleton.edu/hr/forms

Additionally, Tarleton provides emergency leave for the following:

  • Unsafe Working or Travel Conditions
  • Emergency Evacuation Order
  • Other Circumstances Determined by Tarleton’s President

Emergency leave may not be used under any circumstances to replace workers’ compensation income benefits.

Jury Duty

In the event an employee is called to jury duty service, the employee will receive regular compensation while serving. Part time employees will be paid for hours that would be considered part of their normal work day/week. An employee called to jury duty may keep any payment received from the appointed court in addition to regular compensation. In addition to reporting this time off, the employee must submit a statement to human resources from the court clerk specifying the date(s) and time(s) served, in order to be compensated for this time.

Military Leave

Tarleton grants leaves of absence for military training and active duty. Long military leave is generally unpaid; however, Tarleton will grant members of the state military forces or reserves paid leave for up to 15 days each federal fiscal year for military training or duty. Members of the National Guard are entitled to emergency leave with pay if the governor calls them to emergency active duty. If possible, the employee must notify his or her supervisor in advance of the need for military leave. Employees who take leaves of absence for military duty should contact the human resources department for details and requirements associated with military leave.

Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) requires the A&M System to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each fiscal year to “eligible” employees for certain family and medical reasons. Employees are “eligible” if they have worked for the state for at least one year and for 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months.

Tarleton will grant unpaid leave to eligible employees for one or more of the following reasons:

  • the care of the employee’s child immediately following birth or placement in the employee’s home; for adoption of foster care;
  • the care of the employee’s spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition; or
  • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his or her job.

An employee must take all paid leave for which he or she is eligible before using unpaid leave. Any paid or unpaid leave an employee takes for these reasons will count toward the 12 weeks of FMLA leave that he or she is allowed each fiscal year.


Advance Notice and Medical Certification

Employees must provide advance leave notice (ordinarily 30 days in advance, but in any event as soon as practicable) and the following medical certifications when the leave is “foreseeable.”

  • medical certification to support a request for leave because of his or her or a family member’s serious health condition
  • medical certification that he or she is able to return to work.
  • medical certification if he or she is unable to return from leave because of a serious health condition
Job and Benefits Protection

Upon return from FMLA leave, the employee will be restored to his or her original or an equivalent position with equivalent pay, benefits and other employment terms, unless he or she would not otherwise have been employed at that time, or is considered a “key” employee under FMLA.

The employee will not lose any employment benefit that accrued before the start of an FMLA leave, except accrued leave used as part of the FMLA leave.

The use of unpaid FMLA leave will not affect an employee’s exempt status if he or she is a bona fide executive, administrative or professional employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Medical Insurance Coverage

For the duration of FMLA leave, the state will pay its contribution toward the employee’s health insurance coverage (or optional coverage, if applicable) under the conditions coverage would have been provided if he or she had continued working.

Parental Leave

Employees who are not eligible for FMLA leave are entitled to a parental leave of absence without pay, not to exceed 12 weeks, for the birth of a natural child or the adoption or placement of a foster child younger than 3 years. This period begins with the date of birth or the first day the adoptive or foster child is formally placed in the home and expires 12 weeks later.

As with FMLA, employees must use any available vacation or sick leave as part of the parental leave. However, use of sick leave is strictly limited to situations clearly falling within the definition of sick leave. The employee must submit proof of adoption or placement of a foster child. Employees may continue to participate in insurance benefit plans, but once an employee goes on unpaid leave, he/she is responsible for payment of all insurance premiums. (See System Regulation 31.03.05, Family and Medical Leave Act)

Sick Leave Without Pay

After exhausting all accrued leave, including approved sick leave pool time, an employee, who is unable to return to work due to sickness, injury, or pregnancy and confinement, or is needed to care for an immediate family member who is actually ill, may submit a request for sick leave without pay. For eligibility and approval requirements, see System Regulation 31.03.02, Sick Leave, or call the Department of Employee Services.

Intermittent or Reduced Leave

An employee may take intermittent leave or may work a reduced hour schedule to reduce his or her usual number of hours per day or work week. Intermittent or reduced leave schedules are subject to the employer’s approval unless the schedules are medically necessary. The employee may only take intermittent or reduced leave for serious health conditions of himself or herself or an immediate family member.

Other Leave Provisions

The Texas A&M System policies provide for various other leaves of absence, with and without pay. Please contact employee services to inquire about other leave provisions not mentioned in this handbook.

Reporting Leave Requested/Taken

Time off is normally reported through the LeaveTraq system. LeaveTraq is accessed through the Single Sign On page (http://sso.tamu.edu) which can be accessed from the Tarleton homepage under “Faculty and Staff.” If LeaveTraq is unavailable to an employee, he or she should contact the employee services department for assistance.

In the LeaveTraq system, leave is reported in hourly increments. The number “2” indicates two hours, not two days; (.5) indicates half an hour. Leave should be rounded off to the nearest quarter hour (e.g., .25, .5. .75).

If sick leave is for less than three continuous working days, the employee must record a brief statement as to the reason in LeaveTraq. If the sick leave is for more than three continuous working days, a doctor’s statement must be submitted to employee services. These same requirements are also applicable for dependent sick leave.

If any type of leave an employee requests will cause the employee to exhaust all available leave without pay status, he or she needs to notify employee services immediately.

Jury duty, military training, fireman training, etc. all require documentation to be submitted to employee services.

Emergency leave, access to the sick leave pool, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Leave without Pay (LWOP) all require prior approval. Please contact employee services for documentation requirements.

Services and Privileges

University employees enjoy various privileges, including educational and recreational opportunities. Seasonal schedules for various programs, concerts, and events are available from the appropriate facility or organization.

By prior arrangement with the head of the department and with approval of the administration, a budgeted full-time university employee may take as many as four semester hours of academic work each semester or 12-week summer session if such activities do not interfere with the schedule of regular employment. Time off from the regular work week to attend classes must be made up outside of normal duty hours, which may include the lunch hour. There is no limitation on the number of credit hours that an employee may take when classes are held outside the regular hours of work. An employee may petition to enroll for more than the number of hours prescribed above and permission may be granted if it is determined to be beneficial to the university. Part-time employees may register for as many credit hours as their terms of employment will permit. They will be paid only for the hours worked and will obtain the consent of their supervisors in the arrangement of their classes if the class schedule influences the work schedule.

Faculty and staff members wishing to audit courses may do so if such activities do not interfere with the schedule of regular employment. Application to audit a course must be made through the registrar’s office. Written consent from the instructor and the head of the department conducting the class is required prior to attendance..

Scholarships are available to regular employees and their family members. Contact the Scholarship Office at 968-9922 for further information.