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Tuition Reimbursement - Ten Things You Need To Know, Plus One Extra

Jan 10, 2008
Thinking about using your company tuition reimbursement plan? What a great way to get money for college. Below I have written up the basic parts of a company tuition benefit. Take a look to learn the good and not so good points you need.

1. The Benefit
A tuition reimbursement benefit pays for you work on an advanced education, like college classes to further your education. Companies offer these plans to help you gain an education, and to help themselves keep good employees. Also, companies then benefit from the education in terms of better productivity, new ideas, marketing, and even tax write-offs.

Each plan has a little something different. The term tuition reimbursement refers to a plan where you pay and the company reimburses you. In reality, your company could use a different system, where the company pays and then evaluates your grade. If you get a low grade you would then have to pay for the tuition. It's a similar benefit, but easier to manage the money. Here are several things to keep in mind.

2. The Requirements
First, what does the program cover? You will need to know things like the schedule, grade requirements, maximum you can spend per credit, and the total per year. Relax. I explain all these terms below.

3. Time on the Job
To even start, you will have to spend some time on the job. Most companies allow this benefit if you have been on the job for a year, but some do six months. Be sure to check with your benefits office or human resources manager to find out the basics of the program.

4. Shared Cost
Tuition reimbursement programs usually have you pay part and the company pay part, like 20% from you, 80% from the company. And it's just for tuition and fees in most programs. So for a tuition cost of $1000, you would pay $200, for example. Not bad. Just make sure you know your part, and have a way to pay for it. Think about using a student loan or direct loan.

5. Course of Study
What if you apply to the program with dreams of becoming a kindergarten teacher with an early childhood education degree? That may not work at a company that makes aircraft parts. You need to check out the program and see if you have to stay within certain courses of study.

6. University Acceptance
To start a program like this, you will naturally have to apply to the college. The company won't process the paperwork unless you have applied and the school has accepted you. And by the way, application fees and test costs usually are your responsibility. Keep reading, it gets better, and you can go to college with this program.

7. Time to pay out
How long does the company need to evaluate and approve you? You'll need to know this in case it takes a long time, especially since most companies won't pay for classes you took without first getting approval.

Another consideration to remember when you start the process: how long till the company pays you back? You'll need to be prepared to carry the cost until the money comes back to you. So a credit card might work if you can handle the payments until reimbursement.

8. Your Grade
Next, what does the company expect in terms of a grade? Typically, you have to get a B or better to keep the benefit. The idea of paying for education assumes that you learn the material, and your grade shows that. Bummer, right? Just kidding - you can handle it!

9. Per Credit Cost
Hold on. This has nothing to do with a loan. Per credit cost refers to the price the college or university charges for a credit hour of instruction. A lowly state university may charge $150, while a highly respected school can charge $600 or more. Many company plans limit the cost of the credit hour they will pay for.

Think about this for a minute. If the plan limits what you spend per credit, at least that means you will get to take more classes, right? That's a good thing and will help you get more done.

10. Preferred Providers
Does the company have a list of preferred schools? Some universities and companies set up arrangements like this. It gives the university more students, and the gives the company a tuition break. It also may help you get more done when a good discount is in place.

11. Benefit Limits
Last, do you know the total benefit limit? I mean how many times can you do this? Can you do it twelve times a year? Or do you have to stay under a dollar limit? Many companies have a dollar limit that you should be aware of, and plan accordingly. You will see a number such as $1500 per year or something similar as a benefit total per employee per year. And you may have a limit of how many years in a row you can participate.

That about covers the basic elements of an employer tuition reimbursement plan. Not so bad, right? You can think of these plans as an addition to your income when you use them. Knowing you can go to college and start or finish a degree really helps. You can do it!
About the Author
Need more info on money for college? Come to Beat-Tuition.com and download a free ebook on financial aid.
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