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How to get your employer to pay for college

Could your employer pay for college?

by Jon Fortenbury | September 26, 2013



It's the understatement of the century to say that college is expensive.

According to The College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees in the 2012-13 academic year was $8,655 for public, four-year colleges as an in-state student; $21,706 for public, four-year colleges as an out-of-state student; and $29,056 for private, nonprofit, four-year colleges.

But did you know that some companies may be willing to pay for your tuition and fees? Apple, UPS and Starbucks are just a few examples, according to a Huffington Post article. It may take some convincing, though, if they don't have a tuition reimbursement program already in place.

Here are three ways to possibly get your employer to help pay for your college.

1. Show how it would benefit them

If you approach your boss for tuition reimbursement with a list of reasons why getting a college degree is a good idea for you, then good luck getting them on board to help pay for it. Of course a degree is smart for you. How is it smart for them that you have one? That's the real question.

According to a Monster article, getting your employer to pay for your education may require you showing them how your educational goals align with corporate objectives, backing up your claims with hard facts.

"Put yourself in your manager's shoes," Kerry Knapp wrote in the Monster article. "If an employee asked you to fund his or her education, you'd want to know why the company should pay and how it would benefit. Make sure you have thorough, well-thought-out answers before your meeting, and rehearse before you go."

Present your case as clearly and concisely as possible, understanding that you may need to commit to working for the company for a chunk of time if they agree to tuition reimbursement.

2. Demonstrate your success with the company

Scoring tuition reimbursement probably won't happen if you haven't done good things for your company yet.

According to Business Insider reporter Vivian Giang, when you approach your employer about funding your MBA (her advice can apply to college in general, though), present your argument in the same way you would if you were asking for a raise.

"Focus on the analytics," Giang wrote in the article. "[Frederick] Lewis (author of "The Corporate Recruiting Game") said this means analyzing the projects that you've completed and relating your work to the impact of the company. Then, you need to make a connection to how getting your MBA will also impact the company more than you already have."

If the employer thinks you can reach your potential without the degree, they may not agree to pay for it. So be prepared to show specific ways that this degree will enhance your job performance.

3. Come with a list of possible schools

It really helps to know all the different local college and online college options before presenting your case for tuition reimbursement.

According to a Campus Explorer article, it could pay to come to your boss with a solid plan. "Find a college with a cheap tuition plan. Show your boss that you've done your research and found the lowest possible price for the best education. This is easier to do with online colleges, as they are generally cheaper than traditional schools."

Don't present the priciest option to your employer, unless you can absolutely show that it will pay off the most for the company. It will seem like you're using them to land an incredible deal on college. Come with a couple of options but ready to present just one. The more you know about the rates and the school, the more it will show the employer that going there is important to you.

It also helps your case if you mention that you'll be applying for scholarships and grants and are only asking if they'll pay for the remaining bill. It shows you're not just trying to cheat them out of money.

Worst case scenario: They say no. Best case scenario: You land a college degree for free or cheap and continue working for a company where you'll use it. It never hurts to ask. Just don't go in unprepared and you may actually have a shot. Get to working on your proposal!

About the Author

Jon Fortenbury is an Austin-based freelance writer who specializes in higher education. He's been published all over the place, ranging from the Huffington Post to USA Today College, and first got published at age 10. Follow him on Twitter (@jonwrites).