In order to get and stay ahead in today’s job market, you often need to have a competitive degree, and even additional certifications on top of that degree. If you’re lucky enough to have a stable job in a growing company, you should consider furthering your education through additional traditional or online college. Not only will these expand your knowledge and skills—they will also likely increase your marketability.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about half of today’s college students work outside of class. More, the U.S. Department of Education now reports that adult students are the fastest growing demographic in college education; as much as 40 percent of students are now at least 25 years old. What does it mean? It is more than possible to complete college work while also being a full-fledged member of the working world.
One of the great advantages of working while obtaining an online degree is the possibility of employer tuition reimbursement. Take some of the tips below in order to best approach your boss or human resources department about the prospect of paying for your education.
1. Show How It’s Good for Them
You need to demonstrate that this education will benefit the company’s bottom line. Above all, it is imperative that you show how an investment in your education is also an investment in the well-being of the company. In order to fully demonstrate this, you need to cover all your corners. Express how you have considered alternatives—like apprenticeships or organization memberships—and explain why extra college courses will benefit the company and your role in it more. Also be sure to explain the added value that you will give to the company if they decide to fund your education: things like increased productivity, loyalty, and job interest, as well as better communication and leadership skills.
2. Details, Details, Details!
Make sure that you have compiled a very robust plan of action. The plan should include start and end dates, specific courses you’re interested in pursuing, and specific, deliverable skills you will pick up from each of these classes. The plan should also include a clear estimate of enrollment costs, so that your employer knows from the get-go how much money is necessary to complete your arrangement. Be prepared to do more research after your meeting should your employer have more questions, and get back to him or her as promptly as possible. Additionally, your education plan needs to very clearly demonstrate how college courses will not hinder your ability to do your job well, guaranteeing your company that you will be able to complete the duties of your job and your education successfully.
3. Get it in Writing
Some employers won’t pay up front, and will instead decide to reimburse your college course costs. While many companies may already have a protocol for reimbursement, be sure that you sit down with your employer and sign a detailed contract delineating how much they will pay and that sets forth their specific expectations for your education plan. Such expectations may mandate a certain GPA, high attendance, and feedback from instructors and professors. Make sure you sit down with the contract and truly believe your ability to complete or achieve what is being asked of you.
4. Take What You Can Get
While some employers may pay for your entire education, others may offer partial education assistance. Often, even some assistance can help enhance your budget and determine a plan of action for funding college courses. If your employer cannot or will not bankroll your entire education, offer to pay a specific percentage and ask if they will match that, or cover the rest of your expenses. Sometimes offering to pay a certain percentage out-of-pocket may actually help ensure your employer’s assistance, as it demonstrates your serious commitment to higher learning.
5. Find the Right Program
Make sure you select a program or selection of courses that gives you the most bang for your buck. Find a school whose fees are conquerable, or whose prestige will help you better achieve greatness. Your employer is more likely to help you take on this adventure if the price is right.
Hopefully these tips will jumpstart your conversations with your employer about tuition reimbursement. Save tens of thousands of dollars and inquire to improve your education and future marketability.
About the Author: Kat Sutton is a researcher, writer, and editor based in Minneapolis. She holds a B.A. in English from Smith College and an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.
Laura W. Perna. “Understanding the Working College Student.” Academe Online. http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/academe/2010/JA/feat/pern.htm
“Adult Student.” Federal Student Aid. Department of Education. http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/returning.jsp