The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

5 Findings From CUPA-HR’s 2017 Healthcare Benefits in Higher Ed Survey

What’s happening on the healthcare benefits front in higher education? What trends should we be watching? Which benefits are waning, and which ones are going strong? Is your college or university on par with other institutions when it comes to its benefits offerings?

Data from CUPA-HR’s Survey of Higher Education Employee Healthcare Benefits provides a comprehensive analysis of healthcare benefits in the nation’s higher ed institutions. Here are some findings featured in this year’s survey report:

1) After a decline last year, the number of institutions offering benefits to part-time employees has increased.
Data from this year’s survey show that slightly more than one third of colleges and universities offer healthcare benefits to part-time staff (38 percent) and adjunct faculty (36 percent). These numbers represent a slight increase from last year, when healthcare benefits offerings to part-time staff and faculty sharply decreased.

2) Support for wellness programs appears to be making a comeback.
While the percentage of institutions with wellness programs in place has remained fairly steady for the past three years (this year’s number is 59 percent), after a marked decline in 2016, percentages for other wellness-related initiatives have risen in 2017. For institutions that don’t currently have a wellness program in place, nearly one third have plans to institute a wellness program in the next year (up sharply from last year). Of institutions with a wellness program in place, nearly two thirds have a wellness budget (the highest percentage in the past three years), and more than one third have at least one dedi­cated wellness staff member, compared to less than one quarter last year.

3) High deductible health plans are becoming a popular option in higher ed.
While PPO plans remain the most commonly offered healthcare plans in higher ed, high deductible health (HDH) plans are gaining in popularity. Nearly two thirds of institutions now offer HDH plans (a 16 percent increase since 2015).

4) The percentage of institutions offering stand-alone vision plans has been increasing steadily for the past three years.
More than three fourths of institutions now provide a stand-alone vision plan, a figure that has risen sharply from two thirds in 2015. This increase mirrors an upsurge in the demand for vision plans in industry, which has been attributed to higher healthcare costs, an aging workforce and increasing computer work.

5) Higher ed is ahead of the curve when it comes to offering healthcare benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners.
The percentage of insti­tutions offering benefits to both opposite- and same-sex partners has been steadily increasing since 2005, with some leveling off in the past few years. The offering of healthcare benefits for opposite-sex partners has increased from one quarter of in­stitutions in 2005 to one half of institutions in 2017. Healthcare benefit offerings for same-sex partners have increased from slightly more than one third of institutions in 2005 to nearly three fourths of institutions in 2017. In private industry, only about one third of organiza­tions provided healthcare benefits for opposite-sex and same-sex domestic partners in 2015.


This year’s survey collected data from 358 institutions on basic healthcare plans; dental, vision and long-term care plans; benefits for domestic partners; benefits for part-time employees and retirees; and wellness programs.

Purchase survey results or read an overview of this year’s Survey of Higher Education Employee Healthcare Benefits.



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