Professional Education and Career Blog

The Benefits of Offering Tuition Assistance Programs, and How To Bring It To Your Company

tuitionhandIn today’s economy, employers are looking for innovative ways to grow their company and maximize the productivity of their employees. Savvy managers are realizing that developing the skill sets of their workers and enhancing their knowledge can help the company be more successful.

Tuition reimbursement benefits are become more popular as companies realize the advantages. One of the most recent and note-worthy examples was Starbucks. They began offering full tuition for workers who chose to study at Arizona State University, and the program was specifically aimed at workers who were partially done with their degrees and to help them finish their education.

Considering the costs of retraining new employees, it makes a lot of sense to pay attention to retention of current employees. The most valuable employees are typically looking to grow their own careers, and if they don’t feel that their current employer has a path for them, then they will start to look elsewhere. Investing in these employees can not only enhance job satisfaction, it can inspire loyalty to stay and help the organization grow.

An article in Forbes described how an employee took advantage of his employer’s program to gain the knowledge to make him a better employee at his job. This is not unusual; given the chance, most employees desire to improve their skills and become more valuable in their jobs.

Unfortunately, when the economy is not doing well or the company is not making its targets, some companies will look at the tuition reimbursement benefit as one of the first things to cut. This can be very short sighted. Because work quality is usually critical to the success of the company, this can be the start of a spiral of the best employees leaving the company in search of better opportunities, leading to more and more organizational problems.

For employees, if your organization doesn’t already have a tuition reimbursement program, it might be a good idea to suggest that the company start one. Some companies might start it only on an exception basis, but it’s possible that your employer might be willing to cover all or part of the costs of your education. If you bring this up with your manager, be prepared to make your case in terms of how it will help the company. Don’t choose a curriculum that won’t be relevant to your job, so that it looks like you’re just trying to have them “pay for your escape.” Highlight the benefits to the company that will come through your newly acquired skills and knowledge.

Be sure and emphasize that the program will take several years to complete, and that you’re willing that stay for some time after completion, such as two years. Generally speaking, managers like employees that are showing initiative and a willingness to improve themselves.

discussionIf you’re a manager at a company and you believe a tuition assistance program would be valuable for your staff, it might be time to bring it up to the higher management. Do your homework on best practices regarding tuition assistance, and what you think the outlines of the program should be. Some examples of decisions to make:

  • What annual cap should be placed on the employees? Should you have a different cap for higher level staff?
  • What degrees should be allowed? Any degree, or just job related?
  • Should individual classes be reimbursed?
  • What requirements should be placed on reimbursement, such as grades?
  • How should the money be reimbursement to the employee? Options include reimbursement after the class, paying the employee before the class so they have no out-of-pocket expenses, and direct-bill options where the company pays the school directly.
  • What types of school fees will be reimbursed? Enrollment fees? Parking fees? Books or other materials?

Ultimately a tuition assistance program is a partnership between the company and the employee, and like most partnerships, often there is a bit of give-and-take in getting to a mutually beneficial place. But the industry trends show that this can be a “win win” for all involved.