Tuition Assistance Program Best Practices

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Which Employees Should be Eligible for Tuition Reimbursement?

A tuition reimbursement policy that is both attractive to employees and manageable for benefit administrators to handle is possible. The complicated part of this benefit only begins when companies place so many restrictions on the policy itself (and an employee's eligibility) that it turns into an HR nightmare.

The tips below will help you determine which employees should be eligible for tuition reimbursement, without overly complicating the process.

Full-Time vs. Part-Time

The easiest way to keep your policy simple yet enticing is to either offer tuition reimbursement for full-time employees only or X amount for full-time and X amount for part-time.

The current amount you can offer in tax-free education expenses is $5,250 per year. Your organization's budget will determine whether you can meet this amount in full or if you'll need to offer a smaller amount.

However, taking into account what your competitors offer is also a smart idea, as this will allow your educational assistance program to act as a strong hiring incentive for the most eligible candidates out there.

If budget is an issue, consider offering tuition reimbursement to full-time employees only, before extending to part-time.

Making the Grade

Once you've determined which employees will be eligible, setting some criteria to protect your company is advised.

Consider the following criteria for your policy:

  • Require employees to receive an A, B, or C in each class for reimbursement. (Proper proof of satisfactory completion is required.)
  • Require employees to maintain a specified GPA in order to remain eligible for reimbursement. (Again, proper proof of satisfactory completion is required.)

Offering tiered reimbursement (100% reimbursement for an A, 75% for a B, and 50% for a C) is not advised, as this is when your policy will become difficult for benefit administrators to manage, regardless of if tuition reimbursement software is used or not.

Remember, a simple policy allows administrators to remain productive and allows employees to easily understand, and meet, the criteria.

The Fine Print

Will you require that an employee stay with your company for a certain length of time (months/years) after completion of the educational assistance to be eligible for this benefit? (And, if an employee decides to leave before the time is up, will you require them to repay the expenses?)

While it is easy to understand why fine print such as this would be enticing to an employer, keep in mind that it can greatly affect participation – and the ability for potential employees to see your tuition reimbursement program as a hiring incentive.

If you are worried that, by not contracting an employee to stay with your organization for a certain length of time, you will end up losing them after they've completed their education, consider this quote in an article about tuition reimbursement for Forbes:

"Good companies attract good employees, regardless of the definition of 'good.' If the company provides opportunities for employees at all levels, a worker with a fresh degree doesn’t have to look outside in order to take advantage of new skills or qualifications. Only the companies without confidence in its own ability to attract qualified employees need to handcuff its employees who seek additional education - generally a more ambitious group than average - to the company for several years."

Why Complicating the Process Can Backfire

As you can see, over-complicating your educational assistance program can backfire for a few reasons. From costing benefit administrators to lose productivity by requiring varied, complicated criteria for each candidate to meet, to making your policy so confusing and full of red tape that employees decide to not even participate.

A simple policy will keep staff at optimum productivity levels, encourage participation, and allow potential candidates to see this benefit as intended: as a clear advantage of choosing your company over others - and as a reason for staying with a company that invests in its employees' success.

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