Tuition Assistance Programs: 5 Things a Factory Worker Knew

Have you tried tuition assistance programs yet? Where you ask your company if you can get some tuition assistance to go to college? It works. Here’s a story of a factory worker who learned a little later in life, but still made great strides and reached his goal.





Missed His Chance

Like many people, Dan missed his chance. He got out of high school and needed a job for whatever reason. He didn’t think he needed college, maybe he didn't know he could go to school with student loans, so he got a job at the local factory making car parts. He didn’t live in a union state, so he didn’t get a union job, either.

He stuck with that job for years. He figured the money was okay, and he could take care of his family. But after a while, he decided to see if he could go a little higher, earn a little more.

The answer? Get a degree, and you can get a better job.

The Key: Tuition Assistance Programs

The company Dan worked for had some benefits. As it turns out, his company had tuition assistance programs. He could go to college, and his employer would pay for some of it.

When you add up what his employer paid, it was thousands of dollars. Think about that for a minute. Dan had a job, and to help him succeed and improve their employees, his company would give him money to go to school. Some companies offer tuition reimbursement instead, but it amounts to the same thing: free money to go to college.

A Comparison

Let’s say you have kids about to go to college, or you are 18 about to go. And let’s say someone told you they would give you $1000 every semester if you pass your classes. What do you think of that?

Sounds a lot like a scholarship or a grant to me! And that money helps just the same as any scholarship or Pell grant. In many cases, you bypass the student loan application, the debt when you graduate, and don't have to worry about how to consolidate student loans.

And if you do borrow with a student loan or a Grad/plus loan, you don't need as much. As far as I know, Dan didn't need student loans.

Talk about a great deal for a bachelor's degree!





Back to the Success Story

He took advantage of it. The company paid while he took classes at night.

It took him some time. Years. But he stayed with the program, and he graduated with an engineering degree. By this time, he was in his mid-40’s, but he was done, and he still had some time. What would you do?

He went to his supervisors, and asked what job he could get with his company now that he had a degree. Unfortunately, things didn’t go perfect at this point. Even though the company had paid for much of his degree through tuition assistance programs, there wasn’t a nice high-paying job available for him. They offered him a 5% raise.

A New Opportunity

Now that Dan knew he could succeed, and had a degree, he started looking around. He found another job that required a degree in his area, at much higher pay. He took it. He had a new opportunity, a better job, and things were looking up.

I met Dan at about this point. He had a couple of years at his new job, and seemed to like it very well. A few years later, Dan moved into management, as am engineering supervisor. A year or so after that, he found another job in the same company, at higher pay, in a recreation paradise. Dan loved to hunt and fish, and all kinds of outdoor adventuring. The new job had all that and more.

Dan achieved what he wanted, a better life, more money, more recreation, less forced overtime. I think he would have done it no matter what, but the college tuition assistance program helped, too.

Check into this benefit where you work. Or look for places to work that offer it.


Hint: don’t ask about benefits at your first interview, it’s considered a bit rude.

Instead: ask about them at the second interview, ask a friend that works there, or ask when you get a job offer.


5 Lessons Learned

1. Tuition Assistance Programs work like scholarships and grants. You may have to pay first and let your company reimburse you.

2. This benefit can provide you with thousands of dollars of help.

3. Your company may not offer you a great job when you finish, but you can still get a good job someplace else.

4. The degree was worth the wait.

5. It’s almost never too late.

You can do it. Tuition assistance programs can help.

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