Tuition reimbursement from employers is a viable option for many students. If you've been in the workforce for a little while and want to go to grad school, your company may be happy to help pay for it.
Companies see this as investing in employees who will move up and do more work for them. However, they won't pay for just anyone (or anything). Here are the steps to take to get a company to help pay for higher education.
1. Research Your Company's Policies
Before approaching your boss or HR, do a little internal research. For instance, does your employee handbook mention tuition? Did this come up during the hiring or orientation process?
The maximum tax-free amount that an employer can provide you for undergraduate or graduate courses each year is $5,250. Will they offer more than that and sponsor a graduate degree entirely? If so, what do you have to do to get the money: Take certain classes? Achieve specific grades? Stay with the company for "X" additional years? Bottom line: Know what you're agreeing to.
(Also, make sure you're an "A" student. You'll likely get the most out of the experience for yourself and from your employer.)
2. Understand How They'll Pay
If your company does offer education assistance, make sure you know exactly how they'll help you out. There's a difference between having a company pay for your school and tuition reimbursement.
If a company pays the bill, that means you don't have to worry about anything coming out of your pocket; meanwhile, tuition reimbursement means you front the money and the company pays you back. Either way, the company pays for your schooling. But the process they use could have a major impact on your budget or your borrowing.
In addition, approximately 3% of employers now offer an incentive to help borrowers cover existing student loan payments. This is another tool to help pay for an education, though its long-term costs could be greater due to the debt you take on.
3. Pick The Right Time To Ask
Asking for tuition help is similar to asking for a raise: It starts with showing the company that you're a good employee.
You need to deliver great results on a constant basis—not just when you want something from the company. This means you may need to start upping your game now. Otherwise, an employer may not even consider paying for your schooling, depending on their requirements.
Also, be aware of the company's financial position. Are they doing well or cutting back on expenses? If it's the latter, it's probably not the best time for you to ask for money.
4. Make The Case
Now that you've done your research, you know the next steps to take with your employer. If they involve employer approval, be prepared to demonstrate how additional schooling will help you be a better employee.
Putting someone through school isn't cheap, so paint a crystal clear picture on why it’s worth it. Look into programs your company will like (e.g., MBA), and then show how this degree will strengthen your understanding of the business—and benefit the company. Show you're a sound investment by grabbing sales numbers or demonstrating how you've gone above and beyond.
Be sure to know what you need them to cover as well. Are you going to ask for full tuition or just a portion? Are you going to get a scholarship or some sort of other assistance? Consider all these things when talking money with a company.