Know Your Benefits

Before I became a Student Services professional, I had another career in higher education: Human Resources, benefits to be exact. For five years, I helped staff and faculty with on-boarding, selecting, and using their benefits. My particular specialties were Tuition Remission, Life Insurance, Long-Term Disability Insurance, Health/Dependent Savings Accounts, and promoting our Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Something I learned over those years was that many people don’t know about all the benefits available to them. Raise your hand if you’re familiar with an EAP? *waits*

You’re an educator right? Might it be a good idea to keep up with your own education in some way? Raise your hands up high. *waits*

Who here has given any thought to your options when your parent/spouse/YOU need end-of-life care? *waits*

That’s what I thought. Many employers offer additional benefits that you’re not concerned with when you attend that orientation during your first week or two of employment. Especially to you new professionals out there, Health, Dental and Retirement are the really important benefits to get up and running (don’t worry, I’ll talk about them in upcoming posts!); and I don’t blame you at all!

But now that you’ve settled into your job a little, maybe you’re approaching your first Open Enrollment period since you were hired, so benefits are on your mind. Or things are happening in work or personal life and you just need a little…something…to get you through. OR, you’ve been in your job a while and are getting bored. Take a wander over to the HR page, find the list of benefits, and look a little more into three benefits I find are forgotten or ignored.


Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Seriously, I can’t say enough how awesome this benefit is!! Are you in a new location (or not!) and think you’re in need of a therapist, or someone to talk to? An EAP will not only help you find someone who is on your insurance based on your needs, but many provide 2-3 free sessions with that therapist so you can see if it’s a good fit. That same EAP will connect you to a lawyer to help buy a house, plan a family, or set up an estate and provide some free and some discounted consultation. EAP’s provide so many helpful mini-benefits that I can’t name them all.


Long Term Care

This is a pretty wide benefit, in that you can use it to cover a wide number of people. This benefit allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars to help cover expenses related to nursing homes, home health aids, etc. Every plan is different so check the specifics of your plan, but it’s never a bad thing to be prepared as the Girl Scouts say.


Tuition Benefits

You KNOW that you can take classes for free right? RIGHT?! Remember back in your undergrad days, looking through the course offerings and wishing you had the time/credits to take History Special Topics: Baseball (or was that just me?), or actually pursue that “useless” major in Dance? Now’s your chance! Take those “silly” little courses that only do you any good. If you’re really motivated, take some courses that will help you professionally. No matter what you do, don’t waste this benefit! I’m not saying to do this every semester, but it’s really easy to let this slip into “I’ll do it next semester.” Just a note about grad-level courses: the government considered this extra income, so you will have to pay taxes after a certain amount of the benefit (it was $5200 back when I administered it, which was about 2 classes) unless the course is job-related as approved by your supervisor.


Coming up: in-depth posts about Health/Dental Insurance & Health Savings Accounts, Retirement Savings, the Transition from Guardian Insurance to Your Own, and others–please email Jessi with your questions/ideas!




Jessi has been involved with NECPA since attending her first Drive-In as a graduate student in December 2009. She has volunteered with the Drive-In, social events, and joined to Board in 2013 to continue giving back to the organization which has become her professional “home”.

Jessi has worked in Higher Education since 2004, when she began her first career in Human Resources after earning a Bachelor’s in English from Salem State College. A desire to work directly with students lead Jessi to pursue a Master’s in College Student Development & Counseling from Northeastern University. For the last 4 years, Jessi has worked in Registration, which she considers the nervous system of a school.

When she takes off her Student Services hat, she dons many others: wife, mom to a menagerie of animals, Girl Scout volunteer, armchair philosopher and aspiring food/beer snob.


Contact Jessi:

Graduation Coordinator
UMass Boston