University to discontinue cellphone allowances for employees

January 20, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Cellphone allowances for Penn State employees will be eliminated effective March 31, the University announced today.

At this time, Penn State employees who use cellular services on official University business have been able to choose between a Penn State-provided phone or use their personal phone and receive an allowance.

Moving forward, if an employee’s budget executive determines cellular services are a business requirement, they will receive a University-issued cellphone to conduct Penn State business.

“When cellphones first came on the scene, only a few people had them,” said Debbie Meder, assistant controller. “Today, nearly everyone has a cellphone and the incremental cost to each employee for business is almost impossible to accurately document. Cellular plans also come with unlimited calling and messaging and generous data plans. This trend has led many other peer universities across the nation to change their cellphone reimbursement policies.”

Because most cellular plans today include unlimited minutes and messaging, as well as a large amount of data, Meder said the need for the allowance has greatly diminished.

Also driving the decision to discontinue the cellphone allowance were the administrative burden of determining and paying the allowances, and inconsistencies across the University in determining who should receive such allowances and how much, Meder said.

Approximately 1,600 employees are being paid a cellphone allowance from the University, totaling about $1 million in direct costs and about $200,000 in indirect costs.

It was clear that we needed to review our policy in this area to assure we are being good stewards of Penn State resources,” said Joseph Doncsecz, associate vice president for finance and corporate controller. “This is an issue that the President’s Council and the Academic Leadership Council have been discussing for more than a year.”

Money saved from the program will remain in the employees’ departmental budget.

Employees who are not issued a Penn State-owned cel phone but incur costs conducting University business -- for example, having to purchase an international data plan while traveling for Penn State -- can be reimbursed for those expenses with appropriate documentation.

Employees with questions should contact their human resources representative or financial officer.

Last Updated January 21, 2016