How to Ask Your Employer for Tuition Reimbursement
If you’re considering graduate school, chances are you have dollar signs rolling around in your mind. While cost isn’t the only consideration in choosing where—or if—you can enroll in graduate school, it’s often a driving factor for prospective students.
Tuition reimbursement from your employer is one way to help offset your graduate school costs. The Wall Street Journal reports that while approximately 90 percent of midsize and large employers offer some form of tuition reimbursement, only 10 percent of workers take advantage of these benefits annually.1 Don’t be afraid to take advantage of your employer’s educational assistance benefits.
But before you dive into a tuition reimbursement conversation, you should create a game plan. Careful preparation is key to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your employer. Here are our tips for talking to your employer about tuition reimbursement:
Perform Initial Research
It may seem obvious, but first you should determine if your company has a tuition reimbursement program or policy. You may be able to find this information in a company handbook, or you can email your human resources (HR) representative. If you have any friends or family members who have benefitted from tuition reimbursement programs at their companies, inquire about the process.
Talk to Your Coworkers
Ask around the office to determine if any of your coworkers have received tuition reimbursement—and for which master’s or certificate programs. Speaking with someone who has experience will give you valuable insight not only into the reimbursement process but also into what it’s like to take courses and earn a degree while working.
Develop Your Talking Points
In addition to the basics of your program—cost, length to completion, general curriculum—you should also come prepared with the key benefits of the program as they relate to your employer. Your company may take your satisfaction very seriously, but ultimately, they have a bottom line to consider. Here are some potential talking points:
- An online graduate program allows you the flexibility to continue working full time
- You can bring industry-relevant classroom learnings directly into the workplace
- You will gain hard skills as well as leadership and communication skills that will make you a more valuable employee and mentor
In addition, tuition reimbursement programs can be a boon for employers and positively impact the bottom line. A 2016 study found that every dollar invested into Cigna’s Education Reimbursement Program (ERP) is returned to the company, with an additional $1.29 in savings—or a 129 percent ROI.2
Have you heard the term “tax-free employer-provided assistance”? According to the IRS, if your company provides educational assistance benefits—including tuition reimbursement—you can exclude up to $5,250 of these benefits from your taxes each year.3
Schedule a Meeting With Your Manager
Don’t spring a tuition reimbursement conversation on your manager. Schedule a private meeting to give yourself and your manager ample time to prepare. Once you have time on their calendar, run through your talking points again and try to imagine how the conversation will go. Anticipate tricky questions they may ask and come ready with answers.
Confidently State Your Case
You’ve done your research, and now is your time to shine. Demonstrate, with conviction, that you’re serious about advancing your career with higher education, referring to your thoroughly researched talking points to reinforce why the company should choose to invest in you.
Whatever the Outcome, Be Professional
Hopefully, your tuition reimbursement conversation ends with a handshake and a “Yes!” But even if that’s not the case, thank your manager for their time and inform them that you would like to follow-up if their stance changes in the future.
Invest in Your Future
Tuition reimbursement is one way to help pay for a specialized degree like the Online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) in Corporate Compliance from Santa Clara University, which can set you on a path toward a more rewarding compliance-driven career. Discover what you can do with this degree, and read about additional financial aid opportunities.
1. Retrieved on March 18, 2019, from wsj.com/articles/companies-help-employees-pay-tuitionbut-few-accept-the-offer-1528682580?ns=prod/accounts-wsj
2. Retrieved on March 18, 2019, from luminafoundation.org/files/resources/talent-investments-pay-off-cigna-full.pdf
3. Retrieved on March 18, 2019, from irs.gov/newsroom/tax-benefits-for-education-information-center