Tuition reimbursement programs — plans in which employers repay their employees’ college expenses — aren’t new, but they are on the rise. Heavy hitters including AT&T, Chipotle and Starbucks offer these in their benefits packages. For workers, a degree can build professional skills and provide opportunities for career advancement.
The tuition reimbursement perk has only recently started to make sense to employers as a tool to recruit and retain quality people. In fact, The Guardian reported in April 2019 that Google is initiating a tuition reimbursement program for even some part-time workers of $5,000 a year.1
If you’re considering going back to school as an opportunity through your employer, perhaps even completely online at Grantham University, you should get all the facts up front. (Some tuition assistance isn’t heavily advertised, but available.) How much will your employer reimburse? What is covered under the program? Do funds only apply to specific areas of study or schools?
Here are eight important tuition reimbursement questions to ask your employer before you decide to enroll in college:
1.) How much will my employer cover? First, you need to know how much your employer is willing to invest in your education. Employers can provide $5,250 in educational assistance per year, tax free, though they may offer more. Make sure you are prepared for any financial responsibilities that could fall on your shoulders … such as how much money may come from your own pocket.
2.) Which costs are covered? Sometimes, reimbursement programs cover your tuition, fees, textbooks and other required supplies. Other times, they only pay for part of what you need. Find out exactly what your employer will cover. College costs can add up and burden cash-strapped students. But with proper planning and saving before enrolling in school, you’ll be prepared to handle the expenses that come with higher education.
3.) Do I have to pick a degree program? Some employers only pay for undergraduate and graduate degrees, but not certificate programs. Others may provide reduced reimbursement (e.g., 50%) if you don’t earn an accredited degree. Still, not a bad deal if you just want to take a few courses here and there for your own interest.
4.) Which schools can I attend? Once you understand which programs your employer will cover, your next step is to identify schools approved for tuition reimbursement. Don’t get swept away and enroll too soon! First and foremost, whatever your field of interest, choose an accredited school recognized by the United States Department of Education (DOE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
5.) Must I keep a minimum grade point average? Even if you’re a star employee, your employer probably won’t hand you a check and hope for the best. He/she will likely want to know how you’re doing in class, and may even require a minimum GPA and regular check-ins. Don’t let these expectations be a stressor. Maintaining a healthy grade point average can be a great incentive to live up to your own high expectations.
6.) Is there a payment schedule or timeline? Now that you have several key questions answered, you can start determining the timeline of paying for school. If your employer is paying up front, you have less to plan. But, if you must pay first and be reimbursed after graduating, things could get complicated, and you may have to consider some additional tuition options.
The good news is Grantham University helps all kinds of students — including busy working parents, active duty military service members and veterans — sort out the financial side of college. Whether it’s about tuition rates, scholarship opportunities, financial aid or the many benefits provided in Grantham’s association, community and corporate partnerships … the university has the answers you need.
7.) Am I limited to certain fields of study? Some employers may only provide tuition reimbursement for programs directly related to your company’s industry, so it’s important to ask in advance what does/doesn’t apply. As you consider potential online degree programs, review the learning outcomes and be prepared to explain how they align with your current role and future career goals.
8.) What if I’m considering another job? Last but not least, find out how long you must remain an employee following graduation and reimbursement (without making it seem like you’re already planning to leave). Your employer has a reasonable expectation to benefit from his/her investment, especially if your education is to prepare you for a higher-level position.
By using these questions as your starting point in the tuition reimbursement conversation, you can be prepared to make the best decision for your future. After all, furthering your education can boost your career knowledge, and Grantham can help you plan a path.