What Is Tuition Assistance?

Tuition assistance programs are employer or organization sponsored programs that help students pay for college. They can be a great way to upskill employees while also increasing job satisfaction, pay, and opportunities for both the employer and the employee. Below, we cover what you need to know about tuition assistance and how you might be able to take advantage of one of these programs.

What is Tuition Assistance?

Tuition assistance is a workplace benefit designed to help employers offset the cost of college. These can be offered by small independent companies as well as big brands and organizations. For example, one of the most well-known programs is through the military. They offer tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement if you meet the requirements of the branch’s ROTC program or have served already and paid into the G.I. Bill during the time you served.

The exact amount of aid you receive from your employer depends on the brand and what you’re studying. Some employers will only send the employee to school if it helps them in their current position, but other companies are more lenient with areas of study.

Which Employers Offer a Tuition Assistance Program?

According to recent research, approximately 48% of employers offer some kind of tuition assistance. A quick internet search or asking your HR department can tell you if the employer you work for has a Tuition Assistance Program. Some companies limit what school you can take classes from: Starbucks pays tuition for its employees for online degrees from Arizona State University. Any little bit can help offset the cost of higher education, so don’t be afraid to investigate!

Another example is Amazon. The major brand has a program known as Career Choice that benefits any hourly wage employees that have been working with the company for at least a year. It funds 95% of the up-front costs for tuition and books. However, the company only funds education for those jobs deemed “in high demand” by sources such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. So if you want to go to school for an Art degree, Amazon probably won’t be able to help.

Other well known brands that have programs that help to cover the cost of going to school include:

  • McDonald’s
  • T-Mobile
  • Home Depot
  • Walmart
  • Chipotle
  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • Target

What Should You Do if Your Employer Doesn’t Have a Tuition Assistance Program?

Even if your current employer doesn’t have a Tuition Assistance Program on the books, it doesn’t mean they can’t develop one. Employees may be able to work with the HR departments to create one. If you think you and your business could benefit from you going back to school, you should ask if you can present your case.

Go into the meeting armed with information including:

  • what you’ll be studying
  • where you’d like to study it
  • how much it cost
  • how it will benefit the brand
  • why it’s a solid investment for the company (and you).

Of course, not every business is going to bite. You might have to search around a bit to find an employer that will work with you on a Tuition Assistance Program, but it never hurts to look for new employment that specifically has this benefit. There’s no real limit on which types of employers off these programs – they can be offered in just about any line of work, from food service to retail to non-profits.

What Do You Need to Do to Qualify for Tuition Assistance?

This depends on the company. They could restrict their tuition assistance program to employees who have been at the organization for a specific period of time, to those who are employed in a certain department, or have other requirements. If your employer offers one of these programs, it’s important to go over the requirements and expectations with the HR department.

Each employer handles this slightly differently and may have certain restrictions on the program. You want to be sure you’re entering into an agreement that is beneficial for you and your education.

Tuition assistance is not offered by every company and organization out there. But it can be an excellent benefit if you find an employer who offers it. Even just asking for it as a benefit when you’re being hired can pay off, even if the company didn’t previously have a tuition assistance program. If you get lucky and work with a brand that has a tuition assistance program, it can be a fantastic way to help you pay for college and potentially save tens of thousands of dollars!

Even with a tuition assistance program, you may not have enough to afford college. Scholarships can help bridge that gap. Our Scholarship Search Tool helps you sift through thousands of awards you might qualify for. Check it out for free here.

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