With a 2019 survey showing around 92 percent of American companies offering the benefit, tuition reimbursement can help make it financially feasible for you to further your education while employed. Usually, this program allows you to earn a certificate, degree or other credential related to your job and may cover a set limit on tuition only. Employers set requirements that employees, schools and programs must meet. Depending on the employer, you may get reimbursed after you pay tuition or the employer may pay tuition on your behalf.
Consider also: Types of Financial Aid for College
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Understanding What Tuition Reimbursement Involves
Employer policies vary, but tuition reimbursement may cover anything from professional development courses to entire degree programs, as long as they're related to your position. The company will often pay a certain amount each year toward tuition, but they may offer unlimited benefits too. Other expenses like books and fees usually need to be covered by some other source like personal savings or financial aid.
You'll go through an approval process where the employer will check whether you and your educational plans meet their criteria for reimbursement. This can mean having a certain tenure with the company, being a full-time versus part-time employee and agreeing to stay with the company a certain time after using benefits. You'll need to choose an acceptable school and program or courses, and then you'll probably have a minimum grade you must earn while studying.
If you get approved, your employer will inform you of how the reimbursement process happens. In some cases, you may need to plan to pay out of pocket and get a payment from the employer later if the employer doesn't send money to your school directly.
Taking advantage of tuition reimbursement also provides the opportunity to take job-related courses that interest and enrich you.
Exploring Tuition Reimbursement's Positive Aspects
Getting financial help to further your education is one of the positive aspects of tuition reimbursement. Whether you can't afford to study on your own or you want to avoid taking out too much in student loans, getting an annual amount toward education can help reduce the financial burden. Further, getting tuition reimbursement won't affect your ability to apply for any additional financial aid needed.
Taking advantage of tuition reimbursement also provides the opportunity to take job-related courses that interest and enrich you. This benefit can help you build your skills in your chosen area and get a raise in your current position, or your new skills could even help you prepare for a promotion in the company. For example, you might decide to earn a degree that can help you land a management role. At the same time, employers reap benefits from upskilled workers who use tuition reimbursement.
Consider also: Walmart Is Paying College Tuition & More
Considering Tuition Reimbursement's Negative Aspects
While tuition reimbursement helps, one of the drawbacks is you'll usually still incur some expenses you'd have to cover with loans, grants, scholarships or your own funds. Since employers usually have a yearly limit for how much they'll reimburse, this means only partial coverage for tuition, and you may have to pay taxes on some of the funds later. You'll need some other financing method for textbooks, computers and other educational expenses not covered under the plan, and this can create some financial challenges.
Consider also: Is Tuition Reimbursement Considered Income?
Companies that offer tuition reimbursement also set strict eligibility criteria, so some workers may not get to take advantage in the first place or may lose the benefits if they end up not meeting the standards. For example, if you're new to the company or work part-time hours, you might not qualify, and you might also want to earn a degree unrelated to your current job instead. Further, these criteria add some risk since if you end up not getting a passing grade in the courses, then you may have to pay back the employer.
Getting Started With Tuition Reimbursement
If you're interested in using tuition reimbursement, you'll want to contact your employer to learn about the process and find out before you start signing up for any classes. You'll want to ask about which criteria for reimbursement they have as well as which types of forms and documentation you need to deal with. Also, ask about whether you'll need to pay for tuition out of pocket and wait for reimbursement so that you can financially prepare.
Often, you'll have to submit a tuition reimbursement request form by a certain deadline before courses to get approval. After you fill it out and get approved, you'll likely need to keep documentation about your progress in courses and tuition costs so that your employer can verify that you fulfill the criteria for reimbursement. For example, you may need to turn in a grade report and show the tuition bill.
- Conoco Phillips: U.S. Tuition Reimbursement Policy
- Tufts Univerity: Tuition Reimbursement Plan Guidelines
- Northeastern University: Tuition Reimbursement Programs: Why and How to Take Advantage of Your Employee Benefit
- Harvard Extension School: How to Use—and Ask For—Employer Tuition Reimbursement Benefits
- International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans: Education Benefits
- Discover: Tuition Reimbursement: Getting Your Employer To Pay For School