Tuition reimbursement could be the answer to two of the biggest questions you’ll face as a prospective college student. First, how will you pay for your education? Second, what will you do for work when you graduate? Tuition reimbursement, or tuition assistance, is an employee benefit in which a hiring company or employer provides financial reimbursement for expenses related to degree programs, training seminars, certificate courses, or continuing education. Tuition reimbursement can offer the twin promises of financial support for your college or grad school expenses, and gainful employment while, or after, you earn your degree.
Sound too good to be true? Well, tuition reimbursement is very real, and many companies recognize this as a way to invest in their own talent pool, add knowledge and skills to their organization, and reduce the costs of recruitment by advancing personnel from within. (It also doesn’t hurt that employee tuition reimbursement is tax deductible by up to $5,250 per employee.)
These benefits explain why, according to Lumina Foundation, employers spend roughly $177 billion annually for formal employee education and training. This includes an estimated $28 billion in tuition support, tuition reimbursement, and other student financial aid opportunities. Lumina Foundation notes that nearly 60% of all employers in the U.S. offer some form of tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement to their employees.
But what companies offer tuition assistance? What companies offer total tuition reimbursement? Are there companies that will pay for college? Does Amazon pay for college? Does Verizon pay for college? Does Starbucks pay for college? And how do big companies like these appraoch education-related employee benefits?
Well, you’ll be pleased to know that most major corporations do have some form of tuition reimbursement. And quite a few other companies have their own degree-granting programs and corporate colleges, where you’ll gain both marketable skills and college credits that may be recognized by accredited colleges and universities.
For career tips and advice on career advancement, visit out our Career Counselor.
Otherwise, read on and find out how to get your company to pay for college:
Learn About Existing Employee Programs
Many large scale employers do participate in tuition reimbursement programs. Highly visible brands with competitive employee benefits programs typically do offer some form of tuition reimbursement either to prospective or existing employees. However, every company and organization takes its own approach.
For instance, coffee chain Starbucks offers a program through its partnership with Arizona State University in which every single one of its employees without a four-year degree is eligible to apply for a college education free of charge. You read that right! While a scholarship from ASU will cover 42% of your cost, Starbucks will pick up the rest of the tab by reimbursing you for all tuition expenses at the end of each semester.
Whereas Starbucks works through a partnership with ASU, online retail giant Amazon actually holds many of the courses funded by its tuition reimbursement program in dedicated classrooms directly within Amazon facilities. Employees who have been with the company for at least a year are eligible to earn up to 95% of tuition and fees through Amazon’s Career Choice program. Applicants can earn credits, certificates, and diplomas within “qualified fields of study” like transportation, healthcare, and computer science.
The tech and communication giant, Verizon, takes yet another approach to tuition assistance. As part of its Lifelong Learning initiative, Verizon offers its full-time employees up to $8,000 annually for tuition and books, with $4,000 available to part-timers working at least 20 hours a week. Whereas many tuition reimbursement programs will require you to pay out of pocket before ultimately being repaid by your employer, Verizon does offer a prepaid tuition assistance option.
This approach is actually not uncommon. According to EdAssist, roughly 40% of employers offering educational benefits will prepay tuition (as opposed to reimbursing) so that prospective students won’t be frightened away by the initial pricetag.
The three massive companies highlighted above demonstrate that while many visible and noteworthy companies have placed an emphasis on career development and the growth of knowledge and skills through tuition assistance, there are many different ways to approach this benefit. As you seek out professional opportunities, consider the implications of tuition reimbursement as part of your benefits package. A company that is willing to invest in you could provide untold value even beyond your salary.
Hone in on prospective employers with a look at these top careers in every field.
It Never Hurts to Ask
While many large-scale employers have clearly structured tuition reimbursement plans, this may not always be true of small- and medium-sized companies. Your company may not have a tuition reimbursement plan in place, but it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t consider investing in you.
According to the Lumina Foundation, evidence is clear that “Tuition assistance programs pay for themselves in reduced talent management costs. These programs support employee talent development and result in real cost savings for employers.”
It’s worth making that case to your employers, especially if you think the acquisition of new knowledge, skills, and credentials could help you contribute directly to your organization’s success and advancement. If you’re looking for ways to enhance, update, or add to your arsenal of professional abilities and credentials, approach your employer with a plan in place.
Begin your pursuit of this plan by checking out Small Business Owners and Online College.
Your Degree Must be Relevant to Your Work
So it’s cool that companies are giving away money, but it does usually come with a few strings attached. In particular, you can’t just pursue any degree you fancy. Verizon may support your education, but they probably won’t pay for your Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Husbandry.
According to Money Crashers, “Many employers require that the courses, or degree sought, be applicable within the company paying the reimbursement.”
Employers want to know that your education and degree will be used to contribute to the organization’s knowledge economy and long-term outlook. You’ll most likely be required to choose a degree that aligns with your organization’s goals and areas of operation.
To pinpoint a degree program in your field, check out our series of comprehensive Degree Overviews.
Be Prepared for A Commitment
Tuition assistance doesn’t just come with topical restrictions. In many cases, it also comes with a commitment. By soliciting your employee for financial support, you are sending the signal that you’ll be returning that investment through your future work and contributions. As such, most employers expect that you have long-term plans to remain with the organization after completing your degree program.
In many cases, this expectation comes with a binding commitment. Just as with tuition reimbursement and assistance programs themselves, these commitments can take many forms. But the basic gist of the commitment is that you must remain employed by the company paying your tuition for a set period of time. Failing to retain this employment could lead to withdrawal of the promise for reimbursement or, in the case of prepaid tuition assistance, you may be required to repay the awarded sum. In some cases, leaving your employer could even result in dismissal from an affiliated education program.
If you are willing to make a commitment to your employer, you’ll likely be searching for an online program that can be completed in tandem with your continuing professional develop. Get started with a look at The Best Online Degrees by rate of job growth.
You May be Required to Get Good Grades
Not only do you have to take certain courses or degree programs, but in most cases, you’ll actually have to do well in them. In fact, the majority of tuition assistance and tuition reimbursement programs come with pretty specific grade requirements. In some cases, the full sum of your assistance may hinge on your ability to meet a specific grade threshold. In other cases, reports Money Crashers, programs may include “scaled grade requirements for compensation returns on courses.”
This means that the amount of tuition assistance you earn could be contingent upon your grade. The better you perform, the more money your company may be willing or able to put up on your behalf.
This points to a pretty clear imperative. You need to do your very best as both a student and a budding professional. For homework help, study strategies, testing tips and more, drop by The Study Lounge.
Balancing Work and Education
Succeeding as both a professional and a student at the same time requires more than just dedication to your studies. It requires balance. You’re already busy, so adding a college or graduate degree to the mix is no easy feat. For most working professionals, the only real option is an online degree program.
For an updated list of the very top online education options for working adults, check out The Best Online Colleges.
For tips on creating a compelling cover letter, sending out an eye-catching resume, crushing your job interviews, and more, visit our Career Counselor.