How to Take Advantage of Your Employer's Education Benefits
Let’s be real… earning a college degree is expensive. And now with the rising cost of living, it can feel like an even steeper uphill battle.
That’s why many have opted to skip college altogether and go straight into the workforce, hoping to eventually work their way up the career ladder. Unfortunately, this can lead to problems in the long run, when a desired promotion or career switch comes with college degree requirements.
Here’s the good news for those already working: Your company may offer some sort of educational benefit. If so, this could be your best bet for gaining an affordable college degree in today’s economy.
What are employer education benefits?
Employer education benefits—also known as tuition reimbursement or educational assistance programs—are benefits provided by an employer to compensate employees for taking courses. Many employers provide education benefits as a way to help their employees learn, advance their careers and improve their job skills.
The benefit gives employees a chance to subsidize their education, however reimbursement can vary by employer. One company may cover the full cost of tuition while another may cap reimbursement at a certain amount. On average, companies typically provide around $6,000 per employee per year, though many companies are beginning to increase their educational benefits as they see the positive net impact it has on their business.
Some educational benefits programs have certain conditions that must be met by employees. For example, you may have to earn a minimum grade in your courses to receive the benefit. You may also be required to pursue a degree major that directly relates to your current role to be compensated. In addition, a certain level of tenure may be required in order to qualify for tuition reimbursement.
Regardless of the requirements, taking advantage of your education benefits can be a smart way to develop professionally. Not only do these benefits programs allow employees to save huge sums of money on earning a degree, but it also gives them a chance to plan their career path and show initiative in the workplace. Best of all, at a time when many are struggling to pay off thousands in student loan debt, employees who take advantage of their education benefits can avoid this hefty commitment.
How do I use my education benefits?
Surprisingly, not many employees take advantage of their education benefits. In fact, many don’t even know they exist. Here’s the best way to learn about your options and not miss your opportunity.
1. Check with your immediate supervisor or human resources department.
This can be as simple as sending an email or just asking in person, “What type of education or tuition assistance programs do we have available?” If your company has an intranet site, you may be able to find this information there, as well.
2. Read up on any requirements or conditions.
Are you qualified to receive the benefit? Does the educational institution you choose need to be accredited? Do you need to pursue a degree major that complements your current role? Be sure to double-check with human resources to get all your questions answered, especially as you get closer to choosing a college, degree and courses.
3. Determine your out-of-pocket expense.
Many education benefits programs only cover the cost of tuition. That may seem all-inclusive, but for some schools, particularly those with a large campus, there may be fees you have to pay in addition to tuition, such as operating expenses, building fees, student activities fees, etc.
One good way to keep expenses low is to take courses through an online program, like Accelerated Pathways, where there are no hefty campus fees and low course costs. Our advisors can also help you to plan your degree major in line with your employer’s requirements, as well as to maximize your tuition reimbursement. For example, if you’re allotted $6,000 per year, we can design your degree to take as many courses per year to maximize your reimbursement.
4. Make sure you want to stay with the company for a while
If you’re unsure whether you want to grow with your current company, then investing in the education benefits program may be a waste of time. Remember, most degrees take years to complete, depending on how many prior college credits you have and how quickly you plan to finish your coursework. In addition, some companies may require you to stay with the company for a certain period of time after reimbursing your education, so be sure to factor this into your plan.
Overall, taking advantage of your company’s education benefits is a great idea. Even if you don’t complete a full degree, you’ll have the opportunity to take professional development courses—practically free! By gaining new skills and earning a degree, you can improve your career path, qualify for higher pay, gain access to more job opportunities, increase your job satisfaction and see more career flexibility. In fact, a study by Accenture and Lumina found that those who participated in their company’s education benefits program were more likely to be promoted and had a 40% wage increase over a three-year period.
Ready to get started using your employer’s education benefits? We can help! Accelerated Pathways is the perfect college path for working adults. We offer flexible, self-paced online courses that can be taken anytime, anywhere. We’ll help you select a degree plan that fits with your company’s education benefits requirements and allows you to maximize your tuition reimbursement dollars. Get in touch with us today!