The Employee Benefits Survey was designed to gather insights on school-specific and regional trends around benefits in SAIS member schools.
The survey was administered in January 2023. Human resources, financial officers, and other business office personnel from all SAIS member schools received an invitation to complete the survey. SAIS received 123 responses for an overall response rate of 31%. We hope the information collected from this survey is helpful to schools as they examine benefits and work toward competitive compensation packages for their employees.
Demographics of Responding Schools
Participating schools are located in 12 states and internationally. The majority of responses were received from Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Total enrollment of participating schools ranged from less than 100 to over 1,500 students, with 63% of responding schools serving between 201 and 900 students. The largest sector (27%) has an enrollment of 301 to 500 students, which corresponds with overall SAIS membership statistics. Almost all responding schools serve both lower and middle grades, with around 75% also serving early childhood through grade 12. Budgets between $1 million and $7 million were indicated by 38% of participating schools. Nearly half, or 47%, of responding schools have between 26 and 100 full-time employees. The demographics of schools included in this report can be viewed in the charts below and further sorted on an interactive dashboard.
For starting teacher salaries, 39% of schools indicated a range between $40,000 and $45,000. At half of the schools, a teacher with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience would earn between $50,000 and $60,000. When comparing salary ranges to local public schools, 38% of schools said that their teacher salaries are about 10% lower than the published public school scale. The top three considerations for schools when they are setting salaries are years of teaching experience, cost of living/inflation adjustment, and level of college degree.
While just 5% of schools offer no tuition remission benefits to any employee group, 41% of schools offer a 50% remission benefit. Several schools indicated differing remission amounts based on the employee’s position, years of service, or demonstrated financial need. The remission benefit has no limit on the number of children at 69% of schools, while 11% of schools limit the benefit to two children per household. Most schools award the same amount to all children in the family. If both spouses are employed by the school, the remission benefit is most often designated to each eligible child, not per faculty member. Therefore, doubling or extending benefits when both parents work for the school was reported in fewer than 5% of responding schools. Senior administrators receive additional remission benefits in almost one quarter of schools, while a few addressed this benefit on a case-by-case basis. Just four of the responding schools have the option of transferring tuition remission benefits to another independent or partner school. Tuition remission is considered an employee benefit in 53% of schools, while it falls under financial aid for 36% of schools. The remaining 11% of schools categorize remission as both benefit and aid, unfunded discount, or contra revenue. In more than 90% of schools, remission is offered at all grade levels served. If there is a grade level exclusion, early childhood and preschool are where this occurs.
Almost all responding schools offer health insurance benefits to full-time employees in the senior administrator, teaching faculty, and administrative support categories. Coverage falls to 86% in the employee category of buildings, grounds, security, and maintenance. This may be due to schools having outsourced services or hourly employees in these areas. Coverage percentages dip to around 92% for dental insurance and 87% for vision insurance.
Health Insurance Coverage
The effective start date for health insurance coverage varies. At 44% of responding schools, coverage begins on the first day of the month following an employee’s start date. Responses from the “other” category include: 90 days after fiscal year start; first of the month following 30, 60, or 90 days of employment; after 60 days; and after three months.
A Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) is the plan type offered by more than three quarters (77%) of schools. Additionally, 51% of responding schools offer a Health Savings Account (HSA). For health insurance, the majority of schools do not participate in a purchasing cooperative, with just 17% reporting being part of a co-op.
In the case of unmarried domestic partners, more than half of schools do not extend health insurance benefits to the employee’s partner. The situation is not applicable for 23% of responding schools. Some schools noted additional considerations for international employees and civil unions.
For employee-only health coverage, more than 68% of schools pay between 76% and 100% of the premium. Dental and vision coverages are funded less frequently, with 48% of schools offering, but not contributing to, dental plan premiums, and 66% of schools offering, but not funding, vision plans.
Short-Term Disability Benefits
Short-term disability benefits are offered by 65% of schools to full-time senior administrators, teaching faculty, and administrative support. Slightly fewer schools offer this benefit to buildings, grounds, security, and maintenance. This coverage begins on the employee start date for 32% of schools, on the first of the month following the start date for 33%, and after 30 days of employment for 10%. Additional comments offered by other respondents noted that short-term disability benefits began after 60 or 90 days or one year at their schools, and/or that this coverage is optional and voluntary. Responses indicate that a person must be disabled for an elimination period of one to 30 days before being eligible for short-term disability benefits in 74% of schools. A majority of schools (55%) allow an employee to use short-term disability benefits for 60 to 90 days before they transition to a long-term disability plan. Most schools (74%) report 60% to 70% of total salary as the maximum level of reimbursement. Almost three-quarters of schools (74%) use a third-party administrator for short-term disability coverage, with 82% funding this coverage through an outside provider.
Long-Term Disability Benefits
More than 75% of schools offer their full-time employees long-term disability benefits. This number is slightly higher for senior administrators and slightly lower for buildings, grounds, security, and maintenance. These benefits are available on the employee’s start date for 40% of schools, while at 38% the benefits go into effect on the first of the month following the start date. Others require 30, 60, or 90 days of employment before eligibility begins. Waiting periods for long-term benefits are between 30 days and 12 months, with 42% of schools requiring 60 to 90 days. A third-party administrator (TPA) is contracted for long-term disability insurance by more than 84% of responding schools.
More than 97% of responding schools offer some type of retirement plan to full-time senior administrators, teaching faculty, and administrative support. Slightly fewer (85%) offer plans to buildings, grounds, security, and maintenance. About half of schools offer retirement plans on the employee’s start date, with 15% on the first of the following month, and 20% after a certain number of days, and in some schools after one year of employment.
Most schools (77%) offer retirement benefits through a 403(b) plan, with 18 using a 401(k). Other responses include 457(b), Roth or SIMPLE IRA, and non-qualified deferred compensation.
School Contribution and Match
The majority of schools (85%) do not require employees to commit a percentage of their income to their retirement plans, while the remainder require contributions from 1% to 5%. The amount of the school’s contribution is based on salary for 58% of schools and length of employment for 23%. Additional responses to this item included the “same contribution for all employees regardless of salary or years of service,” “based on age of employee,” and “discretionary.”
Respondents submitted other comments in the benefits and contributions sections, including requirements of one year of service or 1,000 hours to be eligible; three-year vesting schedule; participation is upon hire, but matching is after one year; and increasing matching percentages by years of service.
The top three wellbeing initiatives provided ─ and funded by the school or included in the employee’s health coverage ─ include an employee assistance plan, flu shots, and an on-campus nurse practitioner. Benefits least likely to be offered include weight management, stress management, and fitness programs.
Other Insurance Benefits
Life insurance benefits are offered by 95% of responding schools, with 75% of schools covering the entire cost for the employee. Other insurance benefits offered but not paid by the school include accident insurance (76%), cancer care (70%), life insurance for dependents (70%), and critical illness care (69%). Benefits least likely to be offered include pet insurance, fertility and reproductive insurance, and employee identity protection.
Miscellaneous benefits most likely to be offered and covered by the school include tickets to school arts and athletics events (47%); on-site school-age childcare before or after school, during the summer, or during holidays (31%); and lunch (30%). The areas least likely to be offered or covered include home Internet service, on-site infant/toddler childcare, non-school age childcare, college savings plans, and undergraduate student loan reimbursement.
For non-degree seeking continuing education, 29% of schools report full coverage, and an additional 31% offer partial coverage. For those seeking graduate degrees, more than half of schools report paying a portion, but less than 5% cover in full.
Half of schools offer some sort of discount for their school store and spirit wear. Less than 10% of schools offer paid time off for employees to volunteer with other organizations.
As expected, housing benefits are generally indicated only for the head of school or residential staff at boarding schools. Additional comments identified the following positions with housing benefits: chaplain, security director, and participants in the school’s faculty fellows program.
The following days are observed as paid holidays by all full-time staff for at least 90% of responding schools:
Days not as commonly observed as paid holidays include the following:
For religious holidays not observed by the school at large, 43% of schools offer paid time off for employee observance.
When asked about paid time off during school-wide breaks, teaching faculty had the greatest amount, followed by administrative support and senior administrators. While several schools have adopted a February winter break, this is not a schedule found in all schools.
When asked if the school has made recent changes in their holidays or breaks, several respondents said they have moved to a full week off at Thanksgiving, while a few have added a day or extended fall break to a full week. Others are adding the school-wide observance of the Diwali holiday to their fall calendars.
Paid Time Off
About one quarter of schools use a general paid time off allowance that is not specified as sick, vacation, etc. At 34%, general paid time off is more common for senior administrators. Around 60% of schools offer employees a specific number of sick, personal, and bereavement days. Vacation days are most likely to be offered to those employees who work a 12-month contract. About 30% of schools offer a specific amount of parental leave (birth or adoptive) to all employee categories.
In general, whether it be encompassing paid time off or a combination of sick leave, personal days, etc., 77% of responding schools offer teaching faculty between 6and 15 days, with the majority (55%) offering 6-10 days. Responses for other employee groups were more widespread. In 24% of schools, senior administrators receive 16-20 days per school year, most likely including vacation days during the summer months, and in 8% of schools this group has unlimited days. Administrative support most often receive between 6 and 15 days, with 25% of schools offering 6-10 days and 21% offering 11-15 days. Buildings, grounds, security, and maintenance most often receive between 6 and 15 days, with 24% of schools offering 6-10 days and 25% offering 11-15 days.
If an employee must take time off to care for a sick child, spouse, or aging parent, more than half of schools classify this as employee sick leave, less than 15% categorize it as personal leave, and less than 4% as unpaid leave. Additional comments in this area indicate that at various schools, employees may choose which category to apply to this leave, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is required for extended leave, and some situations may be addressed individually.
Take a look at how your school’s benefits compare to other SAIS schools of similar size or with similar budgets. Use the interactive dashboard to further sort key data from this report.