Employee Benefits

  1. 7.1      Medical insurance
  2. 7.2      COBRA
  3. 7.3      Flexible spending account
  4. 7.4      Retirement plan
  5. 7.5      Supplemental retirement annuities
  6. 7.6      Group life & accidental death & dismemberment insurance
  7. 7.7      Long term disability
  8. 7.8      Training, Development, and Employee Tuition Assistance Grant
  9. 7.9      Tuition exchange benefits

7.1  Medical Insurance

The college offers a hospital and medical insurance plan.  Please see the Human Resources Department for a description of the latest plans.

Further information regarding medical insurance, including a current plan summary is available in the Human Resources Office.

7.2  COBRA

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) requires employers with 20 or more employees to offer employees and dependents certain health insurance continuation rights.  Under the regulations Houghton College will invoice the employee for the cost of the premium plus a 2 percent administrative fee.

Coverage for you and your dependents may be continued for up to 18 months if you:

1.       Terminated or were terminated for reasons other than gross misconduct.

2.       Became ineligible for coverage because you experienced a reduction in work hours.

Coverage for your eligible dependents may be continued for up to 36 months under the following circumstances:

1.      If you become divorced or legally separated from your spouse.

2.      If you die.

3.      If you have dependent children who are covered under the Plan and who reach the Plan’s maximum age and are therefore no longer eligible for coverage.

Should you terminate, die or experience a reduction in hours, Univera will notify you or your dependents, as appropriate, within 14 days of the event of the terms and duration of possible continuation.  At the end of this notification period, the 60-day election period commences.  You must decide within the 60-day election period whether or not you wish to continue your benefits.  Should you elect to continue your benefits, you will have another 45 days in which to pay the appropriate premiums.

Should you become either divorced or legally separated or have an eligible dependent who reaches the age limit specified in the Plan, you must notify the Human Resources Office in writing within 60 days of said event taking place.  The appropriate information will be forwarded to you with the same time frames as in the previous paragraph.

If you do not notify us within the 60-day time limit or if you do not pay your premiums when due, you forfeit your rights under COBRA legislation.


Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996


Effective for plan years beginning on or after July 1, 1997, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (the “Act”) limits the extent to which employer-sponsored group health plans and issuers of group health insurance may exclude individuals based on preexisting conditions. In addition, health insurance issuers offering coverage must accept any “eligible individual” (Individuals with at least 18 months of creditable coverage without a break in coverage of 63 days or more) in the state who apply for coverage without imposing a preexisting condition exclusion. Certain non-federal governmental plans to the extent self-funded may elect to be exempted from some or all of the coverage requirements; however, such entities may not elect out of the certification and disclosure requirements. Plans making the election must notify plan participants of the election at the time of enrollment and on an annual basis.

The Act does not require health insurance issuers to make group health insurance available to large employers (those with 51 or more employees). Instead, it assumes that such coverage is available. Every health insurance issuer that offers group health insurance to small employers (defined as employers with 2-50 employees) in a state must accept every small employer in the state that applies for coverage, as well as each eligible individual who applies for enrollment during the period in which the individual first becomes eligible to enroll under the terms of the small employer’s plan.

General Rules

Preexisting Conditions

An employer-sponsored group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group health insurance coverage can exclude participants and beneficiaries from coverage because of a preexisting condition only if the following statements regarding the exclusion are true:

The employee has a “genuine medical condition.” A genuine medical condition is defined as a condition for which medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment was recommended or received in the six (6) months prior to the time the individual enrolled in the plan or began a waiting period to enroll. The cause of the condition is irrelevant, and genetic information will not itself be considered a medical condition unless it is diagnosed to be one.

The exclusionary period does not last for longer than twelve (12) months. In the case of a late enrollee (one who joins a plan other than during his first eligibility period or during a “special enrollment period”), the exclusionary period can last for eighteen (18) months. The exclusionary period is reduced by the length of time immediately preceding the individual’s enrollment date that he was covered under another group health plan, health insurance policy (group or otherwise) providing for medical care, Medicare, Medicaid, military-sponsored health care, or other specified health program. The coverage period which must be credited extends from the enrollment date back to the date the employee first had a break in coverage lasting at least 63 days (not counting any waiting period for coverage). Thus, an individual who was continuously covered under one employer’s group health plan for 12 months or longer and who moved immediately to another employer’s group health plan could not be excluded on the basis of a preexisting condition. Under a special transition rule, certificates are not required for coverage prior to July 1, 1996. However, an individual has the right to demonstrate such prior coverage through the presentation of documents or other means.

Prohibition on Discrimination Based on Health Status

Group health plans and issuers may not discriminate against individuals by limiting eligibility or continued eligibility on any of the following health factors:

Health status; Medical condition (mental or physical);   Claims experience;   Receipt of health care;   Medical history;   Genetic information;   Evidence of insurability (including conditions arising out of acts of domestic violence); or   Disability.

Despite the foregoing, a group health plan or issuer is not required to provide any particular benefits beyond those provided for in the plan, and a group plan is free to limit the level and nature of benefits or coverage for all similarly-situated individuals who are enrolled in the plan. Moreover, no violation will occur if the generally applicable terms of a plan have a disparate impact on certain individuals, as long as the plan is not knowingly designed to discriminate against individuals.

Group health plans and issuers may not require an individual, as a condition of enrollment or continued enrollment, to pay a premium that is greater than the premiums charged similarly-situated individuals on the basis of any health-status factors pertaining to that individual.


A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group health coverage may not impose any preexisting condition exclusion in connection with a pregnancy. In addition, no preexisting condition exclusion may be imposed on newborns, adopted children or children placed for adoption who, within 30 days of birth, adoption or placement, were covered by health insurance, unless they subsequently incurred a break in coverage lasting at least 63 days.

Certificates and Disclosures of Coverage


At the time a participant or dependent either ceases to be covered under a plan or obtains Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 (COBRA) continuation coverage, a group health plan or health insurance issuer is required to provide the individual with a written certificate of:

The creditable coverage period; continuation coverage, if any, under COBRA; and the waiting period, if any, imposed under the plan for coverage.

Group health plans and issuers may provide the certificate at a time, to the extent practicable, that is consistent with the notices required under COBRA. The certificate must also be provided when an individual’s COBRA continuation coverage expires, and again at the request of or on behalf of a former enrollee if the request is made within 24 months of the expiration of the group health coverage or, if applicable, the COBRA continuation coverage. No certificate was required to be provided before June 1, 1997, and with respect to events occurring between July 1, 1996, and October 1, 1996, no certificate was required unless one was requested in writing.

Disclosure Requirements

Modification to a group health plan involving a material reduction in covered services or benefits must be explained to participants and beneficiaries in a summary description. The summary must be provided no later than 60 days after the date of the adoption of the modification or, alternatively, as part of a summary provided in regular intervals of 90 days. Group health plans must also now disclose in the summary plan description whether an insurance company is responsible for financing or administering the plan (including handling the payment of claims) and, if so, the insurance company’s name and address.

Special Enrollment Periods

Employees (and/or their dependents) who elect to receive health insurance coverage through a plan or policy other than their employer’s plan (for example, under a spouse’s plan) must be permitted to enroll later in the employer’s plan if they meet the following conditions:

The employee (and/or dependents) must otherwise meet the eligibility requirements (including any valid preexisting condition exclusions) for enrollment; The employee’s (or dependent’s) prior coverage must have been under a COBRA continuation provision that was exhausted, or under non-COBRA coverage that was terminated as a result of a loss of eligibility (as, for example, when a spouse loses his or her job) or the discontinuation of employer contributions; If the group plan or issuer so requires and notifies the employee (or dependent), the employee (or dependent) must have stated in writing at the time he originally declined the employer’s coverage that the availability of the alternate coverage was the reason for not enrolling under the employer’s plan; and The employee (or dependent) must request to enroll in the employer’s plan within 30 days after the date the COBRA or other coverage expires or terminates.

A special enrollment period is also available for individuals who become dependents of a covered or otherwise eligible individual if the group plan provides dependent coverage. During the special enrollment period, persons who become dependents through marriage, birth, adoption, or placement for adoption must have at least 30 days from becoming a dependent to enroll.


If a plan violates the portability portion of the Act, an individual can bring a private cause of action under ERISA against an employer-sponsor of a group health plan or a health insurance issuer for equitable (i.e., nonmonetary) relief to enforce his rights under the Act.

Failure by a group health plan to satisfy the portability and access requirements can result in the imposition of a penalty tax on the employer sponsor of the plan equal to $100 per day for each individual with respect to whom the requirements are not met. The maximum tax for unintentional failures is the lesser of 10% of the employer’s cost for health insurance for the year or $500,000.

Generally, no tax will be imposed if the employer did not know of and, exercising reasonable diligence, could not have known of a violation. Nor will any tax be imposed if the violation was unintentional and corrected within 30 days after the date of discovery of the violation. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may waive part or all of the tax in any case where the violation was unintentional and not due to willful neglect. For small employers, no tax will be imposed if the violation is solely as a result of coverage provided to employees through an insurance or health maintenance organization (HMO) contract.

7.3  Flexible Spending Account

Under this plan, employees may elect to redirect a portion of their pay to a “benefit bank.”  Contributions are non-taxable dollars which help pay for qualifying expenses, i.e. medical, dental, vision care, and day care on a receipt-supported-reimbursement basis.  Funds contributed to these accounts are exempt from FICA (Social Security), Federal and New York state income taxes.  It is very important for you to plan carefully when deciding to what extent you will participate in this plan since IRS regulations require that any balance left in your “benefit bank” at the end of the plan year will be forfeited.

Employees are eligible to join this plan on their date of employment.  Student workers and part-time employees working less than 20 hours per week are not eligible for this plan.  Participants in a Health Savings Account are not eligible for a Flexible Spending Account.  Each eligible employee will receive an application for the plan annually from the Human Resources Office.  Further information regarding this plan is available in the Human Resources Office.


The college offers a section 403(B) defined contribution retirement plan to eligible employees.  The purpose of the retirement plan is to enable qualifying employees to maintain their standard of living following retirement by providing income over and above income that may be provided by Social Security.


Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA) and the College Retirement Equities Fund (CREF) sponsors the college retirement plan.  TIAA is a non-profit, legal reserve life insurance and annuity company incorporated in New York.  It provides annuities and insurance at low cost for educational institutions.  CREF is a separate non-profit corporation companion to TIAA, established to accumulate, invest, and then disburse funds for retirement in the form of lifetime income and other payment options.  CREF funding vehicles include foreign and domestic stock, bond, and money market options.  A participant may allocate plan contributions to TIAA and/or CREF funding vehicles in any whole number percentages that total 100 percent of the amount designated.


An eligible employee may begin participation in this plan on the first month following the completion of a 12-month period which constitutes one year of service at the institution or with another educational institution.  Eligible employees must also be 21 years of age or older.


An “eligible employee” means any full-time employee who is employed by the institution, except adjunct faculty members.  An employee who is customarily employed on a part-time, temporary or irregular basis for less than 1,000 hours a year is an eligible employee only if credited with 1,000 hours or more of service (including paid absences) during any 12-consecutive-calendar-month period commencing with their date of employment or anniversary.


Each participant shall contribute 3 percent of their compensation through payroll deduction (after tax) or reduction (before tax).  This will be matched by a contribution by the college as announced from time to time and remitted to TIAA-CREF.  A participant may elect to contribute more than 3 percent, but there are certain limits to this option.  See the Executive Director of Human Resources for more information.


Employees are immediately and fully vested upon remittance of the contributions of both employee and college matching funds to TIAA-CREF.

7.5  Supplemental Retirement Annuities

Supplemental Retirement Annuities (SRAs) enable employees to set aside tax-deferred funds over and above the retirement program.  Enrollment packets and further information are available in the Human Resources Office.  Employees are eligible to begin an SRA immediately upon employment with the college. See the Human Resources Office for more information.

7.6  Group Life and Accidental Death and  Dismemberment Insurance

Term Life and Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance is underwritten by Houghton College for all full-time employees at the onset of their employment.  A waiver of coverage may be granted because of conscientious objection.  The amount of insurance coverage is double the annual salary.  This amount reduces 33 percent when an employee reaches the age of 65.

7.7  Long Term Disability

Coverage is also provided to full time employees. The college pays the full cost of this benefit.

7.8  Training, Development, and, Employee Tuition Assistance Grant

As a means of encouraging staff development, funds are appropriated annually to provide training both on campus and off campus in special training workshops and seminars.

Requests for these training and developmental programs should be addressed to your supervisor.  Time spent in training will be compensated at the usual rate of pay.

Employee Tuition Assistance Grant

Information on the ETAG policy

7.9  Tuition Exchange Benefits

What is tuition exchange?

Many colleges and universities extend the same tuition benefits available to their employee dependents to dependents from other schools.  The term “exchange” refers to the fact that in most cases no money changes hands – a receiving/importing college waives some or all of its tuition charges.  In many cases “free” tuition is the maximum an exchange recipient can receive (in other words, no academic or other scholarships on top of the tuition waiver), but in a few cases recipients are allowed to receive additional institutional aid on top of tuition benefits.

Who is eligible?

A dependent of any full-time employee of Houghton College.  Check with Human Resources if you are unsure about the eligibility of your dependents.

When should I apply?

Each college has its own application deadlines and procedures for admission and tuition exchange, but in general your dependent should apply for admission and tuition exchange in relatively close proximity.  We don’t act on any tuition exchange application unless a student has been accepted for admission, for example, and other colleges may follow similar procedures.  As a general rule, then, apply for both admission and tuition exchange during the fall semester of the senior year in high school, but be sure to check each potential college choice for specific guidelines and deadlines.

How do I apply?

For CCCU, Tuition Exchange Inc., Council of Independent Colleges and Wesleyan College Exchange, send your student’s full name, social security number, home address and application institution(s) to Enrollment Management Office.  They will prepare the tuition exchange applications and send them on your behalf.  For Christian College Consortium schools, send this same information to the Office of the Academic Dean.

What are my chances?

The likelihood of receiving tuition exchange depend a great deal on the institution, student qualities and other factors.  For example, some institutions (Taylor and Asbury) only take one or two students per year for all programs in which they participate, making receipt of tuition exchange very competitive.  A stronger student has a better chance of receiving tuition exchange.  “Stronger,” in this case, goes beyond SAT scores and class rank – other qualities such as music or athletic ability, leadership, extensive co-curricular involvement and/or alumni connections can make a difference as well.

What if I have questions?

The Human Resources office can help with all questions.  If you have specific questions about which institutions participate, please see the links below.

The programs

Council of Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU)  http://www.cccu.org/twep    Many, but not all, of the CCCU members participate in tuition exchange.  See the link above for program info, a list of participating institutions, coordinators, etc.  Schools are obligated to take at least one CCCU TE person per year in order to participate in the program, but some take up to three.

Tuition Exchange Inc (TEI) – http://www.tuitionexchange.org/schools.cfm –  This organization requires us to maintain a balance of trade in order to participate.  In other words, if we don’t import enough TEI recipients, we won’t build up enough credits to export any of our dependents.  At present this has not been a problem – we have a healthy balance of trade.  TEI participants include secular and Christian private colleges.  For some participating colleges, though, importing enough students is a problem, enough so that they have developed incentive programs such as “free” room on top of tuition benefits.

Council of Independent Colleges (CIC)  http://www.cic.edu/Programs-and-Services/Tuition-Exchange-Program/Pages/About-TEP.aspx    This program is more like the CCCu program in that there is no balance of trade requirement.  The above link gives further details and includes a list of participating institutions.

Christian College Consortium (CCC)   http://www.ccconsortium.org/  All of the Consortium schools (Asbury, Bethel (MN), George Fox, Gordon, Greenville, Houghton, Malone, Messiah, Seattle Pacific, Taylor, Trinity International, Westmont, and Wheaton) are also members of the CCCU and many participate in the CCCU TE program.  At present Wheaton does not participate in any tuition exchange programs.  This program functions on more of a balance of trade between schools.  Applications for this program are coordinated by the chief academic officers on each participating campus.  Some CCCU/CCC members recommend that students apply through both programs to enhance their chances of getting tuition exchange.

Wesleyan Colleges – the four Wesleyan liberal arts colleges (Indiana Wesleyan, Oklahoma Wesleyan, Southern Wesleyan and Houghton) and one Bible college (Kingswood University in NB, Canada) are all members of the CCCU and participate in that TE program as well.  This program gives priority to Wesleyan college dependents applying for TE at another Wesleyan college.