When pursuing higher education, the number one question tends to be: How will I pay for it? There's no doubt that the cost of colleges and universities has increased over the years. In fact, the National Center for Educational Statistics shows that the average cost of a public 4-year institution rose from $11,993 in 2015 to $19,488 in 2020.

While there are some resources available to students such as grants and student loans, not all students qualify and sometimes even these options are not enough to cover tuition, textbooks and other related costs.

Some employers offer their employees education benefits to help pay for accredited certificate and degree-granting programs. The two most common ones are called:

Employer tuition assistance and employee tuition reimbursement programs offer a unique way of working toward your desired certificate or degree while not having to worry as much about how you'll pay for it. Education reimbursement programs fall under employee benefits for companies that offer these types of programs. You might be surprised by the companies that offer employee tuition reimbursement programs, in fact, you might already be working for one!

What Is Tuition Reimbursement?

According to a 2019 survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefits, approximately 92%, or 5 in 6 organizations, offered some type of education reimbursement benefit.

Part of the reason so many employers offer educational benefits to their employees is because under the Tax Revenue Code, employers are able to provide each employee with up to $5,250 per calendar year in tax-free employee benefits. These employer tuition reimbursement programs can vary in terms of range and impact from company to company; however, the bottom line is that tuition reimbursement programs can help pay for accredited college and university programs. Offering these types of benefits may also help with employee morale, retention and overall company relations as it shows that the employer supports the growth and wellbeing of its employees.

How Does Tuition Reimbursement Work?

Most commonly you'll find that employers offer some kind of tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement program. Most employer tuition assistance is paid up front while the employer tuition reimbursement is processed after the course, or courses have been completed. The most common conditions of employee tuition reimbursement or tuition assistance programs include:

The conditions and criteria vary from company to company and it's always best to check in with your employer for specific questions.

Why Should You Consider a Tuition Reimbursement Program?

Education benefits can be a huge help in a journey toward higher education. Tuition reimbursement programs can allow you to keep working your current job without having to change your day-to-day schedule. Some employers have specific relationships with online universities that allow you to craft your school schedule around your work schedule. This can also give you the added freedom of bringing the classroom with you wherever you have internet access. Tuition reimbursement and tuition assistance programs are also tax free which may be an added benefit to both employees and employers.

Online Colleges Are Great Options for Tuition Reimbursement Programs

If your employer offers tuition reimbursement or tuition assistance as a benefit, online colleges might be an especially great option to since your "campus" and classes can be wherever you have internet access. You may not need to dash to a physical campus to hear a lecture or connect with classmates about an assignment. This can be an especially helpful option for managers and supervisors who may want to pursue a degree but are currently working full-time. Some employers, such as Starbucks, work directly with online universities to create unique partnerships that benefit their employees with degree-granting programs that work for everyone involved.

Companies That Are Providing Tuition Assistance or Reimbursement Programs

You might be surprised to learn that so many companies offer employer tuition reimbursement programs. Here's a list of 10 nationwide employers that offer this benefit.

AT&T

  • AT&T can pay up to $5,250 per calendar year for eligible expenses for full-time employees with a lifetime cap of $20,000 for undergraduate programs and $25,000 for graduate programs.
  • This tuition reimbursement program can be applied to any accredited college or university regardless of degree level.
  • There is a list of preapproved qualifying majors that the tuition reimbursement can be applied to including business, engineering, psychology and telecommunications.
  • full-time and part-time employees are eligible for the tuition reimbursement program after completing 6 months of "net credited service" NCS.

Amazon

  • According to Amazon's website, Amazon can pay up to 95% of tuition and fees toward a certificate or degree program in preapproved fields of study under their Amazon Career Choices program.
  • Aircraft mechanics, computer design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies and nursing are among the many fields Amazon's Career Choices offers.
  • Amazon employees must be employed with the company for one full calendar year in order to be eligible for these benefits.
  • Amazon program can also pay up to $12,000 in tuition or textbook-related expenses over the course of four years under the Career Choices Program.

Anthem

  • Anthem can provide a maximum $5,000 in educational reimbursements to help with the costs of tuition, fees, textbooks, etc. from fully accredited institutions.
  • This tuition reimbursement can be applied towards A.A., undergraduate and graduate programs so long as it's an accredited institution.
  • There are no degree or major limitations applied to this educational reimbursement, so long as the degree is from an accredited institution.
  • This tuition benefit can be offered to any Anthem employee working 20 hours or more per week. This includes part-time and full-time employees.
  • Anthem also can offer a degree program through their College for America program which includes A.A. and B.A. degrees in a number of fields.

Chipotle

  • Chipotle offers a number of tuition assistance and reimbursement programs in amounts up to $5,250 per year (with $2,625 available every six months) for eligible employees.
  • Eligible Chipotle employees can work toward any number of degrees such as high school degrees, GED certificates, A.A., bachelor's, and even graduate degrees in a number of fields.
  • In order to be eligible for any of the education assistance programs Chipotle offers, you must be employed with Chipotle for a minimum of 120 days and work at least 15 hours a week. Management positions are immediately eligible for these programs on their first day of employment.
  • Chipotle also offers "debt-free" degree programs with a handful of accredited online universities for eligible employees.

Home Depot

  • Salaried Home Depot employees are eligible for up to $5,000 per year in tuition reimbursements. Full-time hourly employees are eligible for up to $3,000 annually in reimbursements. Part-time hourly employees are eligible for up to $1,500 in reimbursements per year.
  • The Home Depot's reimbursement program can be applied to accredited 2-year and 4-year colleges as well as technical and vocational programs.
  • Individuals who wish to qualify for these benefits must be current Home Depot employees in good standing. More information on the employee requirements can be found on their website.
  • Reimbursement limits apply as the tuition limit can only be applied to 50% of the total cost of tuition, books, and registration fees.

McDonald's

  • McDonald's offers a number of tuition assistance programs in amounts of up to $5,250 per year for eligible employees.
  • Eligible McDonald's employees can apply their tuition assistance toward any accredited college, university or certificate-granting program.
  • In order to be eligible for any of the education assistance programs McDonald's offers, you must be employed with McDonald's for a minimum of 90 days and have a performance rating of "significant performance" or better.

Starbucks

  • Starbucks offers its part-time and full-time employees full tuition coverage for first-time bachelor's degree programs through Arizona State University's (ASU) online program.
  • Eligible employees can apply to over 80 different bachelor degree programs through the ASU online undergraduate degree program.
  • Starbucks employees are required to be in good standing and must both apply to ASU and complete their FAFSA. Employees become eligible after working a minimum of 240 hours over the course of 3 consecutive months.
  • Employees can only apply this tuition benefit to ASU.

T-Mobile

  • T-Mobile offers up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursement per calendar year for eligible full-time employees and $2,500 for eligible part-time employees.
  • T-Mobile's tuition assistance can be applied to any accredited 2-year or 4-year college or university. Restrictions apply to certificate programs.
  • In order to be eligible for T-Mobile's tuition assistance program, employees must be employed for a minimum of 90 days and be in good standing.
  • Because this is a tuition assistance program, eligible employees must complete the course with a C- or better (passing grade) and remain employed with T-Mobile throughout the duration of the course(s).

UPS

  • Through the UPS Earn & Learn program, eligible employees can get up to $5,250 per calendar year in tuition reimbursement with a lifetime max of $25,000.
  • Eligible employees can apply the Earn & Learn funds to accredited programs that meet UPS eligibility requirements.
  • There are no courses of study limitations on the UPS Earn & Learn Program, meaning students can pursue any degree they desire.
  • UPS Employees become eligible for this benefit the day that they are hired.

Verizon

  • Full-time Verizon employees can receive up to $8,000 per calendar year toward tuition assistance. Part-time employees working a minimum of 20 hours per week can receive up to $4,000 per year.
  • Eligible Verizon employees can apply their tuition assistance and tuition reimbursement toward accredited colleges and universities.
  • They must be a Verizon wireless employee in good standing working a minimum of 20 hours per work to be eligible.

Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA)

The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund, or FEEA, is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 1986, geared toward providing financial support and scholarships to federal employees. This federal employee tuition assistance program is also the only organization of its kind, seeking to provide government workers with emergency funds and scholarships to support their path toward higher education. The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund provides a number of programs that help eligible federal employees with scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

Some of these scholarships are even offered to the children and/or grandchildren of eligible federal employees. Be sure to visit their website for more information on these resources.

What to Do If Your Employer Does Not Offer a Tuition Reimbursement Program

If you find yourself working for an employer who does not currently provide some kind of tuition reimbursement, or tuition assistance program, consider talking to them about it. Employers can actually benefit from these types of programs since according to section 127 of the US Internal Revenue code, employers are allowed to deduct up to $5,250 per year, in tuition reimbursement for college courses for each employee. Businesses of any size can utilize section 127 to provide tax-deductible tuition benefits to their employees. You might consider working with your employer to create a pilot program that could be performance based, kind of like a bonus. Programs like these can ultimately be mutually beneficial and could even lead to increased employee retention and better workplace performance.

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