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Requesting tuition assistance from your employer

July 06, 2022
Two colleagues in the office discussing business

Tuition reimbursement is increasingly becoming a sought-after benefit by workers– and employers are listening. In fact, more than half of U.S.-based companies offer educational support programs to employees1 so there’s a decent chance your organization already has a system in place to help pay for your academic endeavors or for individuals to find jobs that offer tuition reimbursement. Whether the practice is in place already at your employer or not, it can be a bit nerve wracking to speak to your management team about helping you finance your degree. Follow our guidelines below to make sure you’re ready for the big conversation.

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1. Understand your options

Check your employee handbook, employee benefits portal, or check with a colleague or your HR representative to find out if your organization has an established program or history of providing (or denying) tuition reimbursement. If educational support is available, make sure to review the agreement details, including payment protocol (some organizations require you to pay upfront and reimburse you later, while others pay the academic institution directly). If no program exists, use these considerations to outline your proposal seeking support.

Common conditions to employer education assistance include:

  • Satisfactory completion of coursework. Some programs offer different levels of support based on your grades.
  • Tenure with the company. Different companies have different periods for benefit vesting.
  • A commitment to stay with the company for a certain amount of time. One to two years after the last support payment is typical.
  • An applicable course of study. Some companies only pay for courses relevant to the business or the employee’s role.

2. Work your network

Ask around at your workplace to find out if any of your coworkers have been successful in appealing for employer assistance with financing their education and find out how they went about the process. You can also look into your connections at other similar organizations to find out how their management team handles education financing.

Check in with your contacts on the following topics:

  • What did they feel were convincing arguments?
  • Did they make any missteps during the conversation?
  • Do they have any advice about your boss's perspective on the topic or an approach that might work in this kind of interaction?

3. Be ready with the details

When the time comes for your actual face-to-face conversation with your employer, make sure you have complete information about the program you’re interested in and answers to all the questions you anticipate receiving from your management team. Consider downloading or bringing the Marquette online M.S. in Computer and Information Sciences program sheet to leave with your boss. Being prepared with this information can not only help ease any concerns your employer may have, but also will present you in the best possible light as someone very serious about the magnitude of your educational undertaking.

You should have all of the essential information about the business school or schools to which you are applying:

  • What school or schools are you applying to?
  • Are you applying to a full-time or part-time program?
  • Is it online, on campus, or a hybrid program?
  • What is the tuition for the program?
  • How long do you expect it will take you to complete the degree?
  • How much time per week do you expect to spend on coursework?

4. Speak Confidently About Your Potential for Growth

While your employer may happen to believe in the value of continued education and understand your desire to grow as a professional, workers with jobs that offer graduate school tuition reimbursement will still have to explain to their employer what they will get out of offering it. You should be ready to clearly list areas in which your program of choice will contribute to your professional development, and more importantly, to show how it will boost your performance at work. Speak with confidence and pull together a presentation or hand-out if you think it would help make your case.

Be ready to discuss how you will:

  • Create integrated solutions to computing problems with a variety of tools and resources
  • Communicate IT problems and suggested solutions to other professionals and with business clients
  • Collaborate with and lead interdisciplinary IT teams to resolve problems and pursue opportunities
  • Benefit from elective choices to help fill gaps in your organization

Whatever you want to get out of your master's in computing, be able to identify specific examples of projects and organizational goals at work that will benefit from your growth in the degree program.

5. Show the Impact on Their Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the bottom line is likely what matters most to your employer. They may not be prepared initially to see the quantifiable benefits of offering graduate school tuition reimbursement, and they may go so far as to question the value of investing in an activity that will divert some of your attention. Direct their focus to the positive return on investment of helping you pay for school by approaching your conversation with data in hand.

Use this information and look up other data to show your employer that it pays to spend smartly on training a capable, productive workforce:

  • In a 2016 study, health insurance company Cigna found that every dollar invested in employee education resulted in $1.29 in savings, or a 129 percent return on investment.2
  • Jobs that offer tuition reimbursement often have better retention rates and investing in/educating current employees can help reduce costs associated with recruiting new ones.
  • Employers that have written policies for education assistance can deduct up to $5250 per employee from their taxes.3

Ready to make your case?

Once you have all your information together, practice your pitch and even do a trial run with a coworker or other trusted professional who can come up with questions that your management team might ask. If you think you’re missing any information about the online M.S. in Computer and Information Sciences, contact an Admissions Advisor. Good luck on your presentation!

Sources
  1. Retrieved on May 10, 2022, from shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/documents/shrm%20employee%20benefits%202019%20executive%20summary.pdf
  2. Retrieved on May 10, 2022, from luminafoundation.org/news-and-views/2016-04-22-cigna-education-reimbursement-program
  3. Retrieved on May 10, 2022, from irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p5137.pdf