Why take out student loans when you could earn a degree for free? You may be able to save thousands of dollars by asking your employer to pay for your education through a tuition reimbursement program. Here’s what you need to know:
Why Your Employer Wants to Pay for Your Education
Employers have a vested interest in making sure employees have the knowledge and skills that will help them succeed at work. By earning a degree in a field related to your job, you can become a better employee. Additionally, employees are more likely to stick with a company when they are relying on their employer to fund their education. Employers often see less turn-around and more employee loyalty when they provide tuition reimbursement for education.
Many employers know that education is the key to on-the-job success. Thousands of companies offer tuition assistance programs. Even if your employer does not have a tuition program in place, you may be able to convince him or her to pay for your schooling if you can present a compelling case.
Full-Time Jobs Offering Tuition Reimbursement
Many larger companies offer tuition reimbursement programs for employees that take courses related to their work. Often, these companies have strict policies and require that employees stay with the company for at least a year - they don’t want to pay for your education if you’re going to use it to find another job. Companies may pay for an entire degree or, more often, will pay only for classes related to your job.
Part-Time Jobs Offering Tuition Reimbursement
Some part-time jobs also offer limited tuition assistance. Generally, these employers offer a smaller amount to help offset the cost of education. For example, Starbucks offers up to $1000 a year in tuition assistance for qualified employees. The convenience store chain Quiktrip offers qualified employees up to $2000 a year in tuition assistance. Often, these companies offer the financial help as a perk of employment and have less-strict policies about the type of courses you can take. However, many employers require workers to be with the company for a minimum amount of time before becoming eligible for tuition reimbursement benefits.
A few large companies have partnered with colleges to provide education and training for their workers. Sometimes this means that trainers come directly to the workplace. It may also mean that employees are permitted to independently enroll in courses from a specific university. Ask your company for details.
How to Discuss Tuition Reimbursement with Your Boss
If your company already has a tuition reimbursement program or business-college partnership in place, visit the human resources department to learn more. If your company does not have a tuition reimbursement program, you will need to convince your employer to design a personal program.
First, decide what classes you would like to take or what degree you would like to obtain. Second, create a list of ways your education will benefit the company. For example:
- Your new skills will make you more productive at work.
- You will be able to take on additional assignments.
- You will be able to be a leader in the workplace.
- Your degree will improve the company’s professional image when you work with clients.
Third, anticipate your employer’s possible concerns. Make a list of problems your employer may raise, and think of solutions to each. For example:
Problem: Your studies will take time away from work.
Solution: Online classes can be completed in your free time and will give you skills to help you do better work.
Problem: Paying your tuition will be expensive for the company.
Solution: Actually, paying your tuition may cost less than hiring a new employee with the degree you are working on and training the new recruit. Your degree will make the company money. In the long run, your employer will save by funding your education.
Finally, set an appointment to discuss tuition reimbursement with your employer. Practice your “why-you-should-pay spiel” beforehand and come to the meeting with your lists in hand. If you are turned down, keep in mind that you can always make another request in a few months.
Signing a Tuition Reimbursement Contract with Your Employer
When your employer agrees to pay your tuition, he will probably want you to sign a contract. Be sure to read over this document carefully and discuss any parts that raise a red flag. Don’t sign a contract that forces you to meet unrealistic terms or stay with the company for an unreasonable amount f time.
Here are a few questions to consider when reading over the contract:
How will your tuition be refunded? Some companies pay the tuition directly. Some deduct it from your paycheck and reimburse you up to a year later.
What academic standards must be met? Find out of there is a required GPA and what happens if you fail to make the grade.
How long must I remain with the company? Find out what happens if you decide to leave before the term is up. Don’t let yourself get locked into staying with any company for too many years.
What happens I stop attending class? If health problems, family issues, or other circumstances prevent you from finishing a degree, will you be required to pay for the classes you’ve already taken?
The best way to pay for an education is to have someone else foot the bill. Convincing your boss to pay your tuition can take some work. But, it’s definitely worth it.