Until recently, April Floyd never thought she'd go back to school. But she's thinking about it now.
Floyd, senior director of Johns Hopkins University's Office of Benefits & Worklife, is so thrilled with the recently announced enhancements to the university's tuition assistance package—which will be available this fall to all full-time JHU employees—that she may use it herself.
"I've thought about it a lot. Why do it? Why now? I think it will strengthen me as a leader and help me refine my business acumen in my job," she says of her hope to earn an MBA. "It's awesome that the university will help pay for it."
But her enthusiasm about the benefit reaches beyond her personal goals to the thousands of Hopkins faculty and staff members who also will gain from it. Floyd, who will oversee the program, believes that the changes will motivate JHU employees—including her own staff—to embellish their credentials, further advance their careers at the university, and boost the university's ability to draw additional gifted people into its workforce.
"This is something designed to help people thrive at JHU and better their careers here," she says. "It will also help attract new talent who may need just a little extra help with their education, particularly staff. The university can't grow and be strong without a growing, strong staff—a staff that feels supported and valued in their professional goals."
Expanding the existing tuition benefit was one of the initial projects Floyd took on after joining Hopkins four years ago. The first step involved listening to employees' voices, including hearing about their own needs, especially financial, and how to improve the old program so it would be easier for them to continue their studies.
Many workers thought the existing program fell short in the amount of money needed to cover costs and that it required workers to pay fees up front—and be reimbursed later—posing a significant economic hardship. Also, they felt limited in pursuing a graduate degree because the previous benefit applied only to courses taken at JHU.
The new tuition benefit will raise the annual amount for undergraduate degrees, both associate and bachelor's, to $5,250 from $2,000, and to $10,000 from $5,250 for graduate degrees. Employees can use the benefits at any accredited institution, including colleges outside JHU. For undergraduate degree programs that are available only outside JHU, and for graduate degree programs at JHU, the university will make payments directly to the schools, helping to minimize the upfront out-of-pocket costs formerly borne by employees. Those who seek a graduate degree other than at JHU will be reimbursed after they successfully complete the course.
The tuition benefit enhancement is a substantial investment in JHU's employees, and it makes JHU more competitive with other local employers, better supports staff who desire to continue their education while employed with the university, and connects to the guiding principles of the university's Ten by Twenty and Beyond strategic plan, which includes encouraging the pursuit of individual excellence to build a stronger university.
All full-time employees are eligible 120 days from their hire date. The benefit applies only to those seeking degrees, although a $5,250 benefit is available for bargaining unit members, whose benefits may differ. In the latter case, each course must be directly related to the employee's current position or career path and consistent with JHU's business needs.
Eligible expenses include tuition and course-related fees. Some exclusions apply, including books, non-course-related fees, seminars, workshops, conferences, meals, lodging and transportation, and supplies students can keep after finishing their courses. Individual courses for sports, recreation, or hobbies also are not covered, unless they are part of a degree program.
"We did a fair amount of benchmarking," she says, referring to comparisons with peer institutions, including Johns Hopkins Health System. "We felt we had been below our benchmarks, specifically on this benefit, in the past. Now we feel we are competitive."
Floyd's deep commitment to the new program is a testament to her family history, which stressed the value of an education. "My parents instilled in us that an education is very important," she says. "They came from a very economically stressed background. My mom was raised by a single mother and only completed high school. My dad's mom was also a single mother, who was widowed when my dad was 7 years old. She worked as a secretary in a private school, which paid for his education—first elementary school, then high school."
She, her father, and her siblings—she is the oldest of three—all earned their undergraduate degrees at Towson University.
After graduating from Towson in 2000, she joined the human resources/recruiting department at St. Joseph Medical Center in Baltimore County. In 2003, she began working in the benefits area at Fieldstone Mortgage Co. in Columbia. In 2006, she spent a year at the XL Health Corp. in Baltimore as a benefits and compensation analyst, responsible for implementing health and retirement benefits programs for employees of a startup health plan.
Following that, she worked for five years as a benefits manager at Tessco Technologies in Hunt Valley, overseeing all health, wellness, and retirement programs. Starting in 2012—and until coming to JHU—she worked in Baltimore for Under Armour, the athletic apparel brand, as head of global benefits for its 14,000 employees worldwide.
A Baltimore native, she says she believes that joining JHU in 2018 was the natural progression of her experience and passion for benefits and work-life programs. "The role feels like it was written for me," she says. "Benefits has a unique opportunity to support all faculty and staff as well as their families. We provide service to employees at their happiest times, like having a new baby or retirement, and at their lowest times, like when someone is sick."
Moreover, Hopkins feels like family and home. Her maternal grandmother retired from Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1996 as a Centrex operator, a position she held for 31 years. "Hopkins is synonymous with Baltimore, and our family has lived here since they immigrated from Ireland around 1820," she says.
Floyd and her family live in Bel Air. She is married to D.J. Floyd, an educator who works as an administrator in the central office for Baltimore County Public Schools. They have three children—two sons, 18 and 16, and a daughter, 12—and three dogs. She spends much of her time supporting her kids' sports activities—specifically baseball and softball—as well as painting, taking photographs, and learning new crafts. "My husband says I collect hobbies," she says.
She also reads at least two books a week. "I love to read, specifically what I call 'inspirational' novels, that is, books that lighten your heart when you finish them," she says. "The world can be so dark. I like finding a novel that brings a little light to my life."
An FAQ on the HR website provides details about the enhanced tuition remission program and will be updated periodically. Employees who have questions can contact the JHU Office of Benefits & Worklife directly at 410-516-2000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.