Tuition Assistance Program Best Practices

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Why Offering Tuition Assistance Is a Smart Move for Employers

Tuition reimbursement programs shouldn't be relegated to traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. Online courses, certifications, and trainings should also be included for a variety of reasons.

As employment packages become more and more competitive, keeping your company at the top of any new hire's list will also grow more challenging. And while many startups and progressive companies can lure employees in with perks like free massages, game rooms, and even beer on tap, (although enticing) they probably won't do much in terms of keeping an employee there long-term or ensuring their loyalty.

However, there is something your company can offer that has a proven track record of both, and that's tuition assistance. While more costly, it can also be the very thing that boosts employee satisfaction and longevity.

Still, if you're hesitant to offer this benefit because you're worried employees will take advantage of your program by leaving immediately after to work for another company, considering it from another viewpoint might change your mind.

Consider Your Employees' Perspectives

In an article for Forbes, Harlan Landes, founder of Adulting.tv and Consumerism Commentary, details a time when he participated in a tuition reimbursement program to pursue a master's degree in business administration.

He gives great insight into why an employer shouldn't be worried that talented employees will take advantage of tuition assistance and then leave for a better company.

Landes says, "This shouldn't be a concern. 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."

And while Landes' company paid 90% of all fees associated with getting his master's, small businesses with more restricted budgets can offer a fraction of that, or restrict their program to online courses only, and still offer an attractive tuition assistance program to employees.

The key, Landes said, is to ensure your program, no matter what it's comprised of, restricts courses and degrees to ones that will benefit your company directly. He states, "The degree should help the employee 'perform better' in some capacity. In many cases, that would mean either driving more revenue or reducing more expenses."

Investing in your employees' education shows them that you're committed to the development of their skills, and shows that you believe they have long-term potential at your company. This alone can boost employee satisfaction, morale, and devotion.

On top of this, investing in your employees' education means that you’re helping to strengthen and expand their skillset, which, as Landes states, will hopefully lead to increased performance.

Looking at tuition assistance from an employees' perspective, like Landes,' will help alleviate employers' fears of offering this valuable benefit to their teams.

ROI Statistics for Tuition Assistance

Verizon Wireless offers a substantial tuition assistance program to their employees, but they wanted to make sure they were getting a strong ROI - as any smart employer would. To find this out, they surveyed both employees and managers and the results showed them that not only was their program producing more loyal, long-term employees, but those employees were also more likely to receive promotions.

The article states:

  • Those who earned degrees with the help of tuition assistance programs were more likely to have been promoted or to have made lateral moves (35% compared with 26% of overall employees)
  • 96% said they planned to stay with Verizon for at least two years beyond the completion of their degree.
  • Nearly 40 percent of Verizon managers cited improved performance among employees who earned degrees with help from the company, including greater adaptability and a stronger appetite for more work and responsibility.

Alleviating Employer Fears

While the risk of an employee taking advantage of tuition reimbursement and then promptly jumping ship remains, there is plenty of evidence that the contrary is true for the majority of participants.

It seems that by offering tuition assistance, employers are increasing employees’ job proficiency, satisfaction, productivity, and loyalty, which, in turn, benefits the company as a whole.

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