Press Release

June 30, 2021

New Benefits Report Examines Parental Leave Practices

Fewer than 40 percent of higher ed institutions offer paid parental leave to new parents, according to the CUPA-HR 2021 Benefits in Higher Education Annual Report. The report, released today, examines the benefits offered to higher ed employees, including healthcare plans, wellness programs, paid time off, tuition benefits and retirement.

For those that offer it, paid parental leave is offered in addition to vacation and sick time. Notably, exempt employees receive more paid time off (PTO) than non-exempt employees, and the number of days off differs by type of PTO plan. New employees at institutions with plans that separate vacation and sick leave receive more total PTO days (27 days for exempt employees, 22 days for non-exempt employees) than employees at institutions with combined plans (22 days for exempt employees, 20 days for non-exempt employees.) Eighty-five percent of higher ed institutions offer separate vacation and sick leave.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Most (55 percent) institutions offer their full-time employees a choice between two healthcare plan types. The most common healthcare plan combination (offered by 37 percent of institutions) is a 2-plan combination of a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan and High Deductible Health (HDH) plan.
  • Institutions are more likely to offer healthcare benefits to staff and faculty retirees under 65 than those who are 65 and older and thus eligible for Medicare.
  • Most institutions already have (62 percent) or will soon have (25 percent) a formal wellness program.
  • More than half of institutions (58 percent) offer some form of short-term disability leave. Short-term disability leave is more common at private institutions than at public institutions.
  • Institutions are slightly more likely to offer tuition benefits to unmarried same-sex partners (42 percent) than unmarried opposite-sex partners (37 percent).
  • The 403(b) plan is the most popular retirement plan for both private institutions (where 96 percent offer it) and public institutions (where 97 percent offer it).

CUPA-HR’s survey of benefits for higher education employees has been conducted since 2003. Data is typically collected on healthcare benefits in odd years and on paid time off, tuition reimbursement, and retirement benefits in even years. Because higher ed institutions are facing budget cuts and reevaluating practices in the wake of COVID-19, CUPA-HR collected data on all benefits to help institutions make data-based decisions on changes to benefits offerings.

A total of 349 institutions completed the survey reporting on all benefits. Because this data was collected with an effective date of January 1, 2021, this report offers an overview of the current state of benefit offerings in higher education after the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional analyses that highlight changes to benefits over the past year will be released on the CUPA-HR website.

To learn more about the Benefits in Higher Education Annual Report, read the overview. Detailed information is available in the full report.



CUPA-HR is the recognized authority on compensation surveys for higher education, with its salary surveys designed by higher ed HR professionals for higher ed HR professionals and other campus leaders. Learn more about CUPA-HR research.

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 over 33,000 HR professionals and other campus leaders at nearly 2,000 member institutions and 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.


Contact Information
Erin Rosolina
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