$600 Higher Education DifferentialApril 3, 2024 — The Office of Employee Relations has extended the deadline for PEF members to submit proof of education degree or license to May 3, 2024.

The payment date of the $600 for anyone who has already submitted proof has not changed. Anyone who met the previous March 29 deadline will see payment on April 24 (Administration Payroll) or May 2 (Institution Payroll). The Office of the State Comptroller will issue an updated payroll bulletin reflecting changes in processing the payment for credentials received after March 29.

As a reminder — the Higher Education Differential is a new benefit that PEF negotiated in the 2023-2026 PS&T Contract. Any member with an Associate’s degree or higher, or anyone who has a license issued by the New York State Education Department, qualifies for the $600 payment, which is intended to reflect the unique professional nature of the titles PEF members hold in State service. The $600 will be paid this year and again in 2025. Proof is being collected by agency HR or personnel offices, so contact them with any questions. Proof can be copies of a diploma, pictures of a diploma, or final transcripts that reflect the degree conferred. If members can’t find their diploma, they can ask to see their personnel file in human resources. PEF advises photographing the proof and submitting it via the agency’s process. In some agencies, members can also ask the agency to look in their background check file. Members who don’t have a copy of their college credentials can also order a transcript from their college/university showing the degree conferred.  Members with more than one kind of proof need only submit one. 

Some unique cases 

The educational institution also does not need to be accredited for members to use the conferred degree. This is important for those with degrees earned outside of the U.S. 

“We’ve been working out hiccups at agency level, at the statewide level with OER, and with the Governor’s Office,” said PEF Director of Contract Administration Debra Greenberg said. “We don’t want anybody, particularly people with degrees from foreign educational institutions, not to submit because they heard something about the college or university had to be accredited; as that is simply not true.” 

In rare occasions, members may be unable to find their diploma and unable to request a transcript, such as when a college has closed. 

“It’s very unusual, but we made arrangements for an attestation form,” Greenberg said. Members would need to be specific and outline all the steps they took to try and obtain the necessary proof.  

The higher ed differential will be counted toward overall compensation when calculating overtime. Originally, the state was not going to do so. PEF was prepared to file a class-action grievance on the issue, but after productive conversations, the state changed course before it was needed.  

PEF has your back 

Once members get confirmation their submission was received, they should retain it. 

“You get confirmation, you save it,” said PEF President Wayne Spence. “If they say they didn’t receive it, then we will ask you for the confirmation so we can fight for you. We are hoping these things won’t happen.” 

Greenberg urged members to contact PEF if they face any obstacles. 

“We can only advocate when we know there is a problem,” she said. “We need to know what’s going on at the ground level, so if something happens, contact your field rep. If your proof is rejected, contact your field rep. If you think there is obstruction from your agency, contact your field rep.” 

On a PEF Telephone Town Hall on Feb. 29, 2024, President Spence said he was going through the process himself. 

“Don’t walk away from this $600,” he said. “I graduated in 1989 and I had to go back and find my degree.”