Paying For School Might Be Easier Than You Think: Here’s How

For individuals working in technical fields, access to managerial positions is often connected to completing an advanced degree with a focus on professional development. Professional education has become not only desirable, but indispensable to face the new challenges of the industry. For those considering leadership positions, a graduate degree makes perfect sense, but how do you pay for it?

As more and more companies and organizations integrate monetary support for tuition costs into their benefit packages, you may find that obtaining a graduate degree without breaking the bank may be a realistic choice..

Here are a few things you can do to increase your chances of receiving support:

  • Find out if your company offers support, and if so, how much.

Some organizations offer educational assistance programs, which include a variety of worker benefit offerings to help employees and/or their dependents pay for college. The Educational Assistance benefit may be used for college credit course work or for job-related, non-credit courses.

In recent times, high-profile companies have either adopted or expanded tuition assistance or reimbursement programs as a work benefit. In an article for the Society for Human Resource Management, Stephen Miller reported Starbucks had increased its College Achievement Plan twofold, with the objective to cover full four-year online degree programs for all eligible full-time and part-time employees. Fiat Chrysler announced in May 2015 that it would offer free college tuition to employees at U.S. dealerships through its Degrees@Work program. Companies such as Eaton Corporation, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and United Technologies offer similar benefits.

Even though only a small percentage of organizations evaluate the return of college tuition investments, more than half–approximately 60 percent of employers–offer them. However, the percentage of employees who currently use this type of benefit is low. Paired with the fact a considerable number of firms intend to increase the size of their educational assistance programs, you might have less competition within the organization and a larger pool of funds available to you.

  • Find out what your company requires students to do for reimbursement.

    The scope and characteristics of each program vary by company. However, most organizations require a minimum grade (usually C or higher) and payback of funds if an employee leaves the company before a specified period after the completion of coursework.

  • If your company doesn’t offer a formal tuition reimbursement program, talk to your human resources department or a trusted manager about how investing in continuing education can yield significant benefits.

After you’ve researched some potential programs and determined your chances of acceptance are positive, it’s time to approach your manager or human resources department with a game plan. In addition to showing them how your degree program of choice can provide you with skills you can apply everyday on the job, remind them that the economy’s current environment demands significant investment in worker training. Consider this stat: By 2020, two-thirds of all jobs in the U.S. will require some form of higher education, but today only about 45 percent of Americans have at least a two-year degree or other postsecondary credential. These circumstances set up a scenario where both the employee and employer will benefit most from pursuing continuing education opportunities.

Also note that providing college tuition not only attracts and retains top talent—it also improves the bottom line, according to a study by Cigna Corporation. According to an analysis of Cigna’s Education Reimbursement Program (ERP), the company found that this program has generated a 129 percent return on investment. The study also showed participants in the ERP are 10 percent more likely to be promoted, 7.5 percent more likely to be transferred within Cigna, and eight percent more likely to stay at the company, reducing across-the-board talent management and recruiting costs.

Tuition assistance programs represent a substantial investment in the workforce–a cost few are willing or able to make. Nevertheless, an educated staff may have a measurable impact on the efficiency of processes and operations throughout the organization.

Are you interested in applying to UW-Madison but have questions about financial aid? Or, would you like some tips on making the case for your degree to your boss? Complete the form below to talk to a student services coordinator.

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