Employer-Sponsored Tuition Assistance to Pay for Graduate School
3/4/2019 by HIGHERGRAD
How did you pay for grad school? Almost every successful graduate student gets asked this question. Why? Others want to know how they can go to graduate school without breaking the bank. A graduate degree provides greater job prospects and enhanced career opportunities. But paying for graduate school poses a very difficult challenge to most.
If you are thinking about going or maybe your career requires graduate education, the price, of course, it is your number one concern. There are many different options to consider when deciding how to pay for graduate school without going broke. One that often gets overlooked is the employer tuition assistance program. Many companies offer what is essentially free money for going back to school. Take advantage and you can forget about trying to find scholarships for grad school or coming up with the cash yourself.
Paying for Graduate School With Your Employer's Help
Financing graduate school can take on a number of different forms. There are grants for graduate school, scholarships, loans fellowships, and graduate assistantships. In addition, you can pay out of pocket if you have the cash, unfortunately, most do not. So unless you are lucky enough to land a graduate assistantship that covers tuition or receive one of the scholarships for grad school, you need to figure out how to pay for it.
You last resort when paying for graduate school should be to take out loans. If you are like most Americans, you already have an average student loan debt of $37,172, according to CNBC, for your undergraduate degree. The last thing you want, or frankly can afford, is taking out loans for grad school.
The one option not mentioned thus far to get free money besides graduate school scholarships and the like is the employer tuition reimbursement. Many do not realize that there are companies willing to cover the costs, either partially or fully, for going to graduate school.
Of course, an employer tuition reimbursement is only available to those that are working for a company that offers such a benefit. This can be one of the best options as a college graduate, however. Find a job with a company who offers a tuition assistance program, and then go back to school for a graduate program that will benefit your career. In the end under this scenario, you have little to no out of pocket costs but a tremendously valuable specialized education.
Companies That Pay for Graduate School
Employer sponsored tuition reimbursement is an employer-provided employee benefit that is a win for everyone. An employer tuition reimbursement program is where an employer pays all or part of an employee's cost to attend college or in this specific case graduate school coursework.
This employee benefit is used as a recruiting and retention tool, which benefits both the employee and employer. The employee receives "free money" to pursue additional education while the employer gets more educated and committed team members. Plus, portions of the reimbursement for companies that pay for grad school is tax deductible.
How the Employer Tuition Assistance Works
Not all employers offer tuition assistance programs for graduate school. Among the ones that do, their programs can vary greatly.
Deciding What to Study
Some employers cover the costs of any graduate school class or a complete graduate certificate program or degree no matter the subject. What is more likely, however, is an employer covers costs associated with classes or programs directly related to the company's business or your career at the company.
In the first scenario, the employer is empowering their employees to pursue topics they are passionate about. To the employer, this is a strong way to retain good talent. Employees feel respected to make their own decisions about learning and empowered to enhance their future in any way they see fit while having their employer's full support.
On the contrary, the other instance is employer focused. The vast majority of companies that pay for grad school expect (and require) you to study areas related to your career at that company. Either way, it is still free graduate education that ultimately has benefits to your career.
How Company Sponsored Tuition Assistance Programs are Administer
The most common way employers administer tuition assistance programs is to have employees first pay for graduate school costs. So long as the program, classes or other related educational expenses are approved by the company, you will get reimbursed for these costs. It is not an ideal way to pay for grad school because you need to cover the costs upfront but at least you do not need to take out life debilitating graduate school loans. Talk with the university, they may be able to work with you with paying for graduate school if they know you are enrolled in an employer tuition reimbursement program.
Generally, employees need to maintain certain academic achievement to continue to get reimbursed. Companies that pay for grad school want to see transcripts of at least acceptable academic performance in order to continue paying for graduate school for you. Substandard performance does little benefit to the company and wastes your time if you are not willing to put in the time necessary to be successful in graduate school.
Pay for Graduate School and Your Responsibility to the Company
Employers usually require some form of commitment from you when they provide tens of thousands of dollars to you for educational expenses. This is particularly true if you are considering an MBA degree, which is one of the most expense graduate programs you can pursue. This commitment typically requires you to remain with the employer for a certain amount of time. This can be a year, the amount of time your took classes or a percentage of tuition assistance based on years worked. In most cases, the alternative is you have to pay back some of the money to your employer if you do not meet this obligation.
Companies that pay for grad school want value for that money. This means they do not want to educate you at a high level, then you leave to another company, which in some industries may be a competitor. Honestly, it is a fair compromise in order to pay for graduate school without using a loan or your own money.
Questions to Consider With Employer Tuition Assistance Programs
As an employee in a company that may have a tuition assistance program for graduate school, there are several questions you should consider before committing to the program. Be sure to clearly understand all aspects of their program including terms and conditions, amounts available, and payback or employment commitment requirements. Here are some questions to ask or consider when thinking about how to pay for grad school with your company's help.
These are just several key questions to consider. Bottom line is you want to carefully understand are the requirements your company has around their program before you decide to use it for paying for graduate school.
As you think about graduate school, either as an undergrad or during your career, explore and look for companies that offer employee tuition assistance programs. This pot of free money is often overlooked when investigating ways for paying for graduate school.