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.

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 identified in research include increased employee loyalty and reduced staff turnover, increased productivity, and the availability of employees with the higher-level skills required 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 "New Evidence that Education Does Raise Productivity."

These studies offer plenty of evidence that encouraging employees to pursue further education has a positive impact on a company's bottom line. A better-educated employee is qualified to take on new projects. The company will be able to take on additional work and bring in more revenue.

How Some Companies Help

Many large companies have a partnership with a local college or university. This may include the development of the curricula that is most beneficial to the company and its employees.

In general, an educational benefit is a tuition assistance program that helps employees and even 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.

For example, Starbucks will reimburse 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.

The convenience store chain QuickTrip 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. Generally, the tax breaks are available if the courses meet IRS guidelines 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.

Try to anticipate questions or concerns that your HR manager might 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 understand or don't agree with.

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 might be reasonable. A longer promise might be hard 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.