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How to Approach Your Employer about Going Back to School

employee approaching employer about tuition reimbursementGoing back to school can always entail some challenges along the way and approaching your employer to gain support  for your goals to achieve higher education is a good idea. If you have not checked already, reference your employee handbook to see if you may be eligible for tuition assistance. Normally you are more likely to find tuition reimbursement programs in larger companies, but it never hurts to ask if it could be an option at a smaller company.

If your education program is related to your job, your employer may reimburse you for all or part of your tuition, which demonstrates a shared commitment and makes your education goals even more attainable. Many companies offer an employer tuition reimbursement plan while others offer a scholarship program. Some employers have a relevancy clause for the classes that they will pay for, as they pertain to your employment. A relevancy clause will normally state that if the program you’re entering doesn’t benefit the company in some way, you will not get reimbursed.  Additionally, some companies have a requirement that an employee must continue to work for the organization for a certain amount of time or return the funds they put towards your education.  However, that is usually a very minimal commitment compared to the increased knowledge and skills achieved by earning a college degree.

Many employers look highly upon furthering your college education because it shows a willingness to grow and succeed, not only in life, but in the workplace. By going back to school, you are becoming a more qualified individual in the workforce and you also are becoming a more valuable employee in the workplace.  Ms. Elaine Fletcher, SPHR and Human Resources Director for Pacific Natural Foods, states that the employees who take advantage of their tuition reimbursement program “come to work more engaged, have higher interest levels and often have created some valuable network contacts in their classes.”  She goes on to say that the employees who take classes often get ideas from their classmates that they bring to Pacific Natural Foods and make a valuable contribution.

Mr. Vaughn Schmall, a collection manager for Wells Fargo, also has had positive experiences with employees who work while attending college.  He states, “By being a student and an employee, they can plan their own self development and long term careers.  Here at Wells Fargo, we offer our team members tuition reimbursement.  We also post all our job openings internally before we advertise them outside the company.  Our team members can see what kind of jobs need what level of education and plan their career path accordingly.”  Mr. Schmall observes, “Employees who are also students often bring an updated skill set into their current workplace and are more engaged.”  Additionally, he cites reduced employee turnover as a benefit that employers receive by offering their workers tuition assistance.

If you share with your current employer what you will be able to contribute to the organization through gaining greater knowledge and skills, plus the positive experiences that other companies have had, such as Pacific Natural Foods and Wells Fargo, this may be an example of how your current employer could also benefit from your returning to school to participate in college classes.

No matter what the industry, employers are always pleased to see employees making a concerted effort to learn new things to contribute to the business. Need more details? Learn more about employer tuition assistance from FinAid.org.

If it has been a number of years since you were  in college, the ability to manage your schedule will be of the utmost importance. If you already have a school picked out, you may only have certain options to choose from for class hours and locations. But if you have not chosen a school, make sure to look for flexibility such as online courses, evening classes, or weekend classes. You may want to talk to your co-workers about their experiences if they are in college or have recently finished a higher education program.  Get recommendations from others who have attended adult degree programs about what their experiences were.  When choosing a school that you feel is geared towards the working adult you can share with your employer that the college you have chosen has programs that are geared to working adults and understands the demands of working a full time job while taking classes.