Press Release


August 11, 2016                                                           

Contact Information: 
Missy Kline, Content Manager – Communications and Marketing  

CUPA-HR Survey Finds Workplace Wellness Programs Are on the Decline in Higher Education 
The number of higher education institutions offering wellness programs is waning, according to findings from CUPA-HR’s 2016 Higher Education Employee Healthcare and Other Benefits Survey. Findings from this year’s survey indicate that 56.8 percent of responding institutions offer a formal wellness program, down from 70 percent in 2012. The number of institutions that are planning to institute a wellness program has decreased by 30 percent over the last year, and the percentage of institutions with either a wellness budget or dedicated wellness staff has also shrunk markedly in the past year.

Commenting on this downward trend, CUPA-HR President and Chief Executive Officer Andy Brantley said, “It is disappointing and quite alarming to see that institutions are dedicating fewer resources to support employee wellness. Every institution should be committed to creating a culture of wellness that encourages and promotes healthy lifestyles and helps employees identify and manage health risks. Choosing not to do so impacts our employees and the operating costs of our organizations.”   

Other Survey Findings
Cost of Healthcare Benefits
The average annual total premium for all four plan types combined — preferred provider organizations (PPO), health maintenance organizations (HMO), point of service (POS) and high-deductible health plans (HDHP) — was $7,059 for employee-only coverage and $19,584 for employee + family coverage. The average percent change in total premium costs from 2015 to 2016 varied by plan type. For employee-only coverage, the largest increase was 4 percent. For employee + family coverage, the largest increase was 6 percent.

Healthcare Basics

  • PPO plans continue to be the plan of choice for a majority of institutions – 84 percent of respondents offer PPO plans. However, HDHPs continue to increase in popularity, with 54 percent of respondents offering this type of plan, up 8 percent from last year. Just seven years ago, only 17 percent of institutions surveyed offered HDHPs.
  • The number of institutions overall offering healthcare benefits to part-time staff and part-time faculty has declined by 4 percent over the last year (this year, it was 37 percent and 33 percent, respectively). Doctoral institutions were much more likely than other Carnegie types to offer healthcare benefits to part-time workers.
  • Roughly half of the respondents offer health benefits for retirees under 65, while roughly 40 percent do so for those over 65. More than half also pay part of the premium.
  • The number of institutions offering healthcare benefits for domestic partners has been increasing steadily. In 2005, only one quarter of institutions offered healthcare benefits to opposite-sex partners and only one-third offered them to same-sex partners. This year, those numbers have risen to 50 percent and 66 percent, respectively (much higher than in private industry).

New Legislation Likely to Impact Benefits Offerings on Campus
Two new pieces of legislation are likely to have an impact on benefits offerings going forward. 

New Overtime Rule
The change to the Fair Labor Standards Act salary threshold, which goes into effect December 1 of this year, could impact benefits provisioning in a number of ways. The cost of compliance could force some institutions to cut benefits. Changes to flex time experienced by previously-exempt employees may affect participation in wellness activities. And because exempt and non-exempt employees may be on different payroll cycles, the benefits deductions, leave accruals and accrual limits for employees who switch exempt status will have to be adjusted accordingly, which could be messy and costly. 

Same-Sex Marriage
Now that same-sex couples have the right to marry, we may see the gap between same-sex and opposite-sex healthcare benefit offerings shrink. Indeed, we may see more institutions opting out of offering any form of domestic partner benefits.

For more information on CUPA-HR’s 2016 Higher Education Employee Healthcare and Other Benefits Survey, or to order results, visit

About the Survey  
The 2016 Higher Education Employee Healthcare and Other Benefits Survey collected detailed data on healthcare benefits, including formal wellness programs, four different types of healthcare plans (PPO, HMO, POS and high-deductible plans), prescription drug benefits and dental plans. The survey represents 492 institutions, including 24 systems reporting in the aggregate for all of their campuses.  

About CUPA-HR 
CUPA-HR is higher ed HR. We serve higher education by providing the knowledge, resources, advocacy and connections to achieve organizational and workforce excellence. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, and serving more than 20,000 HR professionals and other campus leaders at more than 1,900 member organizations around the country and abroad, the association offers learning and professional development programs, higher education salary and benefits data, extensive online resources and just-in-time regulatory and legislative information.