Opening The Door To Tuition Reimbursement: How To Ask Your Employer To Pay For Your Degree
In the past few years, major companies across the United States—including McDonald’s, Dollar General, and Chipotle Mexican Grill—have added tuition reimbursement to employee benefits packages as a way to attract and cultivate talent.
Companies of all sizes see the advantages of providing tuition assistance to their employees, understanding that young workers are increasingly looking to graduate degrees to augment their knowledge and advance their careers. The advent of online education has made tuition reimbursement an even easier sell: Due to the flexibility, online allows employees to earn an advanced degree on their own time.
But what should employees do when their employers seem resistant to launching company-assisted tuition programs? How do workers broach the topic?
Experts say opening the conversation may be the toughest step to tuition reimbursement. Many employers just need encouragement from employees to begin company-sponsored education.
The key to asking for school subsidies is researching the topic and defining how the company will benefit. Talking points for an open conversation about the corporate advantages include:
1. Financial Returns
Education reimbursement is shown to provide financial advantages for companies that offer the benefit. A 2016 analysis of the education reimbursement program offered by health insurer Cigna found for every $1 the company puts into tuition reimbursement, the program saved $1.29 in human capital costs. That’s a 129% return on investment (ROI).
The analysis found employees who participated in the program were 10% more likely to be promoted, 7.5% more likely to advance within Cigna, and 8% more likely to stay with the company. Karen Kocher, Cigna’s chief learning officer, said, “Knowing that tuition assistance also reaps a financial return—and quantifying that return on investment—has affirmed our belief in the program and prompted us to make changes that will make it even more impactful.” According to Kocher, the company’s tuition reimbursement program is now a priority because of the high ROI.
Companies that invest in their employees through value-added benefits, including tuition reimbursement, inspire loyalty and dedication. Studies show employees who earn post-baccalaureate degrees are happier, more productive, and more interested in their company’s success than their undergraduate counterparts.
A 2016 study by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found business school-prepared graduates for leadership positions and improved their job satisfaction. Future leaders are more willing to stay with a company if they see room for upward mobility and a genuine interest for the employee’s long-term well-being.
3. Attract Millennials
The nation’s next-generation workforce is increasingly looking for value added to employment, whether it is free lunches or free health care. Tuition reimbursement fits the bill. Millennials want more from their benefits than their parents received, said Jay Titus, senior director of academic services at EdAssist, a firm that administers tuition assistance management services for large companies. Millennials value professional development, even more than regular pay raises in some cases, Titus said. Employers from companies of all sizes recognize education assistance is something they need to offer.
“We’re seeing, whether you’re a small company or a large company, investing in your workforce is something that you need to be doing because you’re competing for the same talent, regardless,” Titus said.
4. Tax Breaks
Under the current tax code, the federal government allows employers to deduct up to $5,250 in tuition benefit expenditures per employee. At the same time, employees who participate in educational assistance programs may be able to exclude up to $5,250 in tuition on their income taxes.
Companies that provide benefits above what is considered average have the added advantage of looking good in the public eye. By giving employees a chance to expand their career opportunities and boost their earnings, the company builds a positive brand image.
“Employers value these programs because they generate positive publicity for the employer as they are perceived to value education and their employees’ personal and professional development,” Andrew R. Hanson, a senior analyst at the Georgetown Center on Education & the Workforce, told Diverse, an online higher education publication.
6. Lifelong Learning
Studies show an investment into education is an investment into lifelong learning. A focus on education enhances employee productivity that can lead to the company’s success. Standout companies differentiate themselves by employing people who have the tools to make complex decisions.
Closing The Deal With An Employer
Experts say an open discussion about tuition reimbursement is essential. Companies of all sizes are seeing education as a possible way to reduce human capital costs and increase their bottom line. In making a final pitch to employers, workers need to remember the basic takeaways:
- Highlight the ROI for the company: Use research, statistics and facts to demonstrate the corporate benefits.
- Emphasize a commitment to the company’s success: Explain how tuition reimbursement will play into the company’s core values.
- Sell the advantages of a Master of Business Administration (MBA)-educated staff: Show how MBA talent improves the corporate profile by bringing a bigger picture look into the company, new skills, and advanced techniques.
- Underscore the benefits of online education
- Online graduate programs like an MBA provide an even greater ROI for employers because the programs allow students to continue their career and family commitments while earning their advanced degree.
With the increasing need for an MBA degree to succeed in today’s fast-moving economy, employees are depending on their employer’s tuition assistance programs more than ever.
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