Thinking of getting college money from a company program, like a tuition reimbursement plan? I did it. Take a look at the pros and cons of this great benefit, and get started.
It’s frustrating to see how many of us pass up a better future because you think you can’t go to school or qualify for a better position. If you are reading this, you likely think you can do it – which is true. You can go to college, and finish.
Tuition reimbursement helps thousands of college students find money for college every year, and it helped me. I have jotted down a few things you need to know as you get going on your college education.
First, find out what your company offers – how much money for college will you get back? The limits will help you plan your education and your cash. Does the company offer 80% reimbursement? Can you handle the other 20%? What about books?
The point: Know your policy. Especially your obligations.
Usually, you have three obligations in tuition reimbursement programs that companies offer:
1. Remain an employee in good standing. You know, no major problems, no law suits, big goofs or blunders, you come to work when expected, complete assigned tasks – regular stuff.
2. Achieve a good grade, usually a B or better. Sometimes a B- or C, but you should check. Going to school and working at the same time can cause you some serious time juggling. You’ll want to know if your grades have slipped too low.
One good thing about tuition reimbursement, you have to set it up. This means you want to go to college, you are motivated. You will probably have good grades just because you want to be there instead of being required to go.
3. How long is your time commitment? Most companies send you to college to gain something for the company. You will gain new skills, better productivity, and this will benefit the company. To keep those expensive new skills in-house, the company will usually require you to sign a commitment to stay for a while.
My own commitment was 1 year. For shorter classes, a typical policy I’ve seen states 3 times the length of the class. These are reasonable commitments. I have had to sign a time commitment for each class the company paid for, a total of about 13 classes. Everything went fine, I worked a year beyond the class, and I still have my job, and I get paid more. Success!
If the time commitment goes over 2 years, you may want to attempt to renegotiate. What if the company wants 4 years and won’t budge? One simple tactic: ask for a prorated monthly or quarterly schedule. Prorated, meaning that every time period that passes pays off part of the commitment. After 3 out of the 4 years, you would only owe one quarter or 25% of the money to pay back if you left.
Those 3 cover the main obligations you will have.
I found that using college money from the company tuition reimbursement program also provided me with a couple of added benefits. For example, I sit at a desk and use a computer. If I had a textbook out at my desk and wrote a school paper during lunch or slow times, no one minded. They all knew I was in school and the boss approved of it.
Another benefit that sometimes can be a biggie is release time. If you need to go to class during work hours, you will have to bring this up with the boss and work around your schedule. One friend of mine received a job offer that included a great release time allowance, 25% of his time, to allow him to finish his degree during work hours.
In my case, I rarely needed time off, since I took evening classes. I did take some time here and there to study and to finish large assignments or take tests, but I used my time off for this.
If you have trouble with the release time problem, remember you have two people to go to for accommodations, your boss and your professor. If you can’t make a certain class, arrange for notes or call the prof beforehand. Need to reschedule a test? Suggest taking it at the university testing center, which most schools have now and which offers extended hours and test proctors.
I’ve saved one touchy subject for last. Do you qualify for the reimbursement program? I have seen only a few qualifications, and only one truly causes problems.
The first you should expect, time on the job. Most programs require you to have your job at least some period of time, like 6 months or a year, which seems to be the standard.
The second causes more problems, but keep reading, I have some workarounds for you. Companies usually call this required skills or an applicable course of study. It means you have to take classes or major in something that the company can use – but hold on, let me break something down before you give up on studying ancient Chinese calligraphy.
I have found that some companies offer a general tuition reimbursement benefit, meaning they don’t care what you study, just do it. If you work for one of those companies, throw a party and get on with your schooling. But if not, keep reading…
First, your company should have many degrees or courses of study that will qualify for their tuition reimbursement program. I have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and my company approved me for a business management masters degree. Actually, I was approved for this degree by three companies before I could finally go to school. This is common.
Naturally, businesses want to sponsor you to take business related courses in hopes that you will improve the company. See what the company needs or typically approves without question. If you see yourself in the company approved majors, then fine.
Finishing any degree will open doors, believe me. Having a degree is better than not having one. If you just want a good education, and you aren’t set on one subject, then go with the approved one and get the help you need with money for college.
If not, look at this. Your school will have basic requirements for any degree, called general education. You can start out taking general education with reimbursement. If you decide to study archeology but you work for a computer company, you may not get approved, right?
So you finish your general education, maybe even take some classes for a minor in an approved subject. Then, you arrange for another way to pay for the specific classes you can’t get approved through work. And presto, you are digging for relics in Peru!
One more idea. I worked at a company that made computer accessories, electronic boxes. One of my friends there went back to school in her forties and did get some tuition from the company to study forestry. She had been with the company for a while, and her supervisors wanted to help her. She kept working while in school, and she was needed. If you run into a roadblock, try asking for a variance in the policy.
That just about covers tuition reimbursement. Use it or lose it. Every year you wait is another year of lost opportunity. You really can go to college. Trust me, it is more fun than high school even if you have to work to do it. And if you can keep a job that offers reimbursement, you can get good enough grades to finish.
Last, remember you can choose. You can move to another area with a less expensive school. You can switch to a job with a better tuition reimbursement policy. You are in charge!
And for some great ideas about federal loans, download my short report in Adobe PDF format.From Tuition Reimbursement back to home