Your Employer Pay Your Tuition?
What You Need to Know about
TAP (Tuition Assistance Programs)
Will your employer help pay your college tuition? If
you are employee of a large corporation, and/or your
field of study relates to a current or future position
in the company, they very well might. However, despite
the availability of such benefits for working professionals,
only a small percentage of employees take advantage
of TAP (Tuition Assistance Programs.) These programs
are usually administered through the human resources
department or are part of an employees benefits package.
In addition to reimbursing college tuition and the cost
of books, they can provide the opportunity to integrate
desirable educational credentials with future career
plans. More, students who receive TAP assistance from an employer can can receive $5,250 of those benefits tax free each year (IRS Publication 970, Employer-Provided Educational Assistance).
Before deciding to take advantage
of these benefits, however, students should understand the guidelines
and restrictions companies can place on such programs. Often, tuition
may only cover courses in the core curriculum, and then only in certain
majors (for example, accounting, business, or finance.) If a student wants
to take courses outside of the curriculum, they may need to provide proof
the classes were required for the major. Additionally, if an employee
discontinues the class, they may have to immediately repay the money to
the employer while waiting for a refund from the university, if they are
to receive a refund at all. Employers also differ in that some only provide
benefits for graduate-level study. Be certain the benefits offered will
cover all courses leading to the desired degree, and not courses leading
to a certificate. Such courses often will not transfer into a four-year
program as they are specialized or skill-based and don't satisfy the broader
The employee's grades may also be important. Companies might require
that the student maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) to continue
receiving the program benefits. The GPA could have an impact on the amount
of tuition the employer will reimburse; for example, a company will pay
100 percent of tuition for a 4.0 GPA, but a reduced percentage for a lower
grade point average. Students may also need to make the initial payment
for the program upon enrollment, and be reimbursed by the employer later
(quarterly or by the semester.)
Participation in the plan could additionally include the requirement
that employees remain with the company a certain length of time after
they complete the degree. If not, tuition benefits may need to be repaid.
The employer may require that the program is finished within a certain
a period of time. Students should ensure that the employers time frame
coincides with that of their chosen university or school.
Venues of alternative credit may help accelerate the degree process and
enable students to meet their goals with less strain on their finances
and time commitments. Before choosing
a college or university program, learn all the academic options.
For example, colleges may offer credit through the CLEP
(College Level Examination Program), or for life
experience (portfolio assessment.) Also, find out if any courses are
available through distance learning or the Internet. After noting all
your options, you will be able to develop a feasible plan-saving both
time and money.
Students do not need to complete a full degree program to take advantage
of company reimbursement plans. Often they can arrange to take just a
few courses for professional development; i.e., some companies will pay
for training in Information Technology or other needed skills. Tuition
reimbursement programs benefit both the employee and the employer. Investigate
the opportunities your company offers. Your job can be more than your
jobit can be an investment in your future.
For more information, please
see the NCES report, Employer
Aid for Postsecondary Education.