Making the decision to go back to school is never easy, especially if you're a full-time employee. That's because there are a lot of sacrifices you'll have to make including giving up your free time and changing your lifestyle. One of the biggest concerns many people have, though, is how they'll be able to afford the cost of attendance. But there may be a way to fulfill your dream and reduce your out-of-pocket expenses by getting your employer to help contribute to your education. Keep reading to find out how your company may be able to help pay for your tuition and how to make the pitch.

Key Takeaways

  • Going back to school can help increase employee loyalty, reduce turnover, increase productivity, and provides employers with a pool of highly-skilled employees.
  • Some companies offer compensation packages with tuition reimbursement while others have partnerships with local colleges and universities.
  • Make sure your pitch includes specifics like the degree and school, and how the program will benefit the company.
  • If your pitch is accepted, make sure you take the time to review the education contract offered by your employer.

Why Your Employer Should Pitch In

The key to getting your employer to pay for your education is convincing management of the benefits to the company that will result from the new skills and knowledge you will acquire. In fact, there are a number of direct benefits of employer-funded education that you can point out to your boss and your company's human resources manager. Company benefits include increased employee loyalty, reduced turnover, increased productivity, and an employee pool with the skills needed to take on new projects and move into leadership positions.

The idea that higher education increases productivity was made famous by Gary Becker, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on human capital theory. The concept was taken further by Dr. Arnaud Chevalier in a brief titled "Does Education Raise Productivity, or Just Reflect It." These studies offer plenty of evidence that encouraging employees to pursue further education has a positive impact on a company's bottom line. After all, since a better-educated employee is qualified to take on new projects, the company will be positioned to take on additional work and bring in more revenue.

How Some Companies Help

An educational benefit is a tuition assistance program that helps employees and their families with higher education costs. It is generally included as a benefit in an employee compensation package and offers reimbursement of tuition costs at enrollment or after the course is completed.

Many large companies have partnerships with local colleges and universities. These relationships may include the development of programs that benefit the company and its employees the most. Employees who are interested in going back to school may benefit from reduced tuition or employee-funded education expenses at these schools.

For example, Starbucks reimburses its employees for any tuition costs not covered by scholarships and financial aid if they take undergraduate courses through Arizona State University's online program. Convenience store chain QuikTrip offers up to $1,000 per semester tuition reimbursement for employees, depending on how many hours they work in a store.  UPS employees are reimbursed for up to $5,250 a year in tuition costs at a selection of colleges near 100 of its locations around the U.S.

As an additional incentive, these companies should be able to take advantage of tax credits and deductions for companies that fund employee education. Tax breaks are generally available if the courses meet guidelines from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and are accepted in the company's trade or industry.

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How To Ask Your Employer To Fund Your Education

How to Pitch Your Boss

If you want your company to help pay for your education, prepare to pitch the idea to your boss or the human resources manager. Don't go for it until you are ready with some specifics:

  • Know the degree or certification you want to earn
  • Pick the school and the courses you want to enroll in
  • Create a list of the ways the company will benefit from your education

Remember, you will be adding valuable additional skills to the company's workforce. You will be able to make a greater contribution to its success and even bring in more revenue. You will be able to share your knowledge with your colleagues and mentor new employees.

Don't go in blindly—make sure you prepare a pitch for your employer about the benefits of paying for your education.

Try to anticipate questions or concerns that your HR manager may have, and answer in a way that speaks directly to the benefit your education will bring the company. If the boss is worried about the expense, note that it may cost less than hiring another employee who already has the degree you're seeking.

Be prepared for this meeting. Practice making your key points, and take your notes into the meeting with you. If the answer is no, don't give up. Try again next quarter.

The Education Contract

If your employer agrees to reimburse your tuition, you may be asked to sign an education contract. Read this document carefully and make sure there are no clauses that you don't agree with or don't understand.

For example, you may be asked to commit to staying with the company for a certain length of time. The company does this because they don't want to fund your training only to have you leave for a job with a competitor. You should sign the contract only if you consider the time commitment acceptable. One or two years may be reasonable while a longer promise may be harder to keep.

You will also want to know how the tuition will be refunded. Will the company pay the tuition directly to the school or pay the money to you? Will they pay it at enrollment or completion? Will you be required to maintain a certain grade point average? If so, what happens if you don't maintain it?

It's also important to know what happens if you can't complete the course or degree for some unforeseen reason. Will you be forced to repay any tuition that has already been reimbursed?

The Bottom Line

The benefits to you of employer-sponsored education are obvious. You get an education without being over-burdened with costs. The benefits to your company may need to be made clear to your boss. Perhaps you can even persuade the boss to make your education a test case for a future company program.