Over the last ten years, the City of Thousand Oaks has paid $429,402 for degree coursework at qualifying, accredited institutions. An analysis of city records reveals that full-time public employees continue to enjoy employer-paid education benefits.
The City’s tuition reimbursement policy provides up to $1,000 per fiscal year per employee for an associate’s degree and up to $5,000 per fiscal year per employee for bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Policy further states, “second Bachelors or second Masters Degree will be considered for reimbursement only after all requests for first-time degrees have been addressed.”
Employees are required to complete coursework during off-duty hours and maintain at least a passing grade of “C.”
California Lutheran University (Cal Lutheran), a private school based in Thousand Oaks, is far and away the top choice of City employees seeking reimbursement. Seventy-eight percent of tuition reimbursements since 2013 have been paid to Cal Lutheran, totaling $333,122.
Tuition for a bachelor’s degree at Cal Lutheran is $49,880 per year; however, it is more common for full-time employees to take courses under the Bachelor’s Degree for Professionals program, where tuition can vary from $18,000 to $39,000, depending upon the degree selected and the number of units transferred from another institution. Tuition is charged by the unit. A single unit is $500, and a single course is worth four units, or $2,000. During a fiscal year, 2.5 courses could be reimbursed by the City. At that pace, the average time to complete a degree is about four years.
A master’s degree at Cal Lutheran costs $820 per unit, or $31,980 total, for a public policy and administration degree, common among public employees. Courses are three units each, or $2,460. Up to two courses could be fully reimbursed by the City each fiscal year, meaning an employee could complete a degree in about six years.
City policy acknowledges differences in price between private and public schools, stating, “If a course is available through a community or state college or university, the employee should enroll in the public school course as opposed to a private college or university since the cost difference is substantial.” And yet, 90 percent ($384,768) of tuition since 2013 has been paid to private institutions. (See chart below.)
Among private schools, tuition can vary widely. Again, Cal Lutheran is $820 per unit, Grand Canyon University is $575 per unit, and Southern New Hampshire University is $637 per unit, to name just a few. CSU Northridge is comparable to the higher-priced private schools at $786 per unit. CSU Channel Islands does not have a public administration program, but the master’s degree in business administration is $600 per unit.