College Tuition Assistance Programs: 6 Great Places to Look

Thinking of going back to school? Looking for money? I have a bunch of great places to look for a college tuition assistance program that might give you money for college tuition. A large number of employers offer these programs as a benefit, and you can use them to help fund your education.

How Do College Tuition Assistance Programs Work?

Employers of all kinds offer tuition assistance as a benefit to retain qualified employees, and to upgrade the skills of the organization. Your company or organization gets a better educated employed without having to replace you. And you get a great benefit – free money for college or other valuable training.

You have to meet some eligibility requirements to qualify, and fill out some paperwork. I’ve listed the basics below.

Are You Eligible?

To qualify, you may have to meet a few requirements. Here are the main ones.

Employment: Of course, since the company is paying, you have to work for them. This may include a number of hours per week, such as 30 or more. Some employers offer programs for part time workers, too. And if your company has a probation period, you usually have to finish that first as well.

Course of study: you may have to show that you are pursuing a degree, as in associates, bachelors, masters, or doctorate. Most places want to see that you plan to finish, not just take a class. But some will also offer benefits for any kind of training.

Subject: You may have to show that the classes apply to your job or to the organization overall. You may have an opportunity to be creative here.

Accreditation: Some employers only provide college tuition assistance when the money goes to an accredited school, or to a list of approved schools. When in doubt, ask about the school you like.

Time commitment: you may have to commit to staying an employee for a period of time. This requirement protects the company and gives you a chance to use your new education to help a work. Expect up to a year commitment.

I hope those don’t look too hard to you. This list occurs all over the place with various changes. Expect some requirements for free money, and you will find the opportunities increase.

Where to Look for College Tuition Assistance

My list of ideas for tuition assistance focuses on entry level jobs, but all of these employers have management positions and want long term employees.

1. Your Current Job

Always your first stop. Ask the boss, or even better, ask your benefits department what kind of tuition assistance they offer. They may offer tuition reimbursement, where you pay and then they give it to you after you have earned a good grade in each class. If you are working now, do this first.

2. National Hotel Chains

Every area has hotels, and most areas have chain hotels. You know, Marriott, Hilton (yes, Paris’ family), Holiday Inn, Motel 6, and a slew of others. Every hotel needs employees – maids, room service, cooks, dishwashers, bellboys, night clerks, maintenance and so on. Look into the ones near you and see what benefits they offer. Many have assistance programs.

3. National Store Chains

Where do you buy groceries? Clothes? Shoes? Your car? A laptop? Best Buy, Kroger’s, Wal-Mart, and nearly every other large national chain offers tuition assistance. Hop on the internet, go to Google.com, and search for the company name. Add tuition assistance program after it if you like – and you may be surprised. Nearly all retail stores hire young energetic clerks, stockers, managers, security, and others to work for them.

4. National Restaurant Chains

Ever heard of McDonald’s? They have one. Starbucks? Definitely, including many part time employees. A pointer is in order here: Don’t go to a local Applebee’s, Chile’s, or any other business and ask for a job to get tuition assistance. You get the help going to college after you get the job and apply for assistance. Find out in advance, use the web, talk to their employees. But don’t show up for the interview and say you want a job so you can get money for college.

5. Other Nearly National employers

Ever heard of Grainger Industrial Supply? They have offices all over. What about Boeing and Lockheed Martin? These companies and many more have large offices or factories in many states.

They all have entry level and management positions, and some kind of tuition assistance. You can ask the college placement office, or read a few issues of the newspaper, especially the business section to find these companies.

5. Universities and Community Colleges

This category works great for some people. I have a relative who got a job at a local university partly to get discounted tuition for their children. Very nice application, since it works for the kids and the person with the job. That could be you.

Schools don’t offer tuition assistance like a company. Instead, you can take any class or go full time at a discount, or even free at some schools. Most universities have jobs for students – these don’t get a tuition assistance benefit. You’ll need a full time job.

You are probably thinking, duh, if I could work at a university I’d already have a degree. Not so fast. Universities also have cafeterias, grounds maintenance, building maintenance, and secretaries. Many of these positions are full time with benefits.

6. Non-Profits

Do you love a good cause? Believe it or not, some nonprofit organizations offer tuition assistance. For example, the ASPCA does. You may have a large office or headquarters of another group in your area, and they may need help. You will have to be an employee, not a volunteer, but you may start volunteering and find they have a job for you.

Come Back for More!

These 6 may be all you need. But if not, I'll put up another page with more ideas soon!

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