An advanced degree can transform your career, but it can also be costly. Here’s the good news: your employer can likely help with your education expenses. Companies are increasingly investing in continuing education to make the workforce more skilled and engaged.
A 2015 report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) showed that 56 percent of employers offer undergraduate-level educational assistance benefits. Graduate-level benefits are offered by 52 percent of employers. Now that you know it isn’t uncommon for employers to fund an advanced degree, get started by doing some homework. Build a strong case before you approach your manager. Here are some tips that will significantly improve your chances of getting your request approved.
Research company policy
Find out if your company offers education reimbursement programs. Check the employee handbook, or set up a quick meeting with HR to understand your options. Some employers offer funding for professional certifications and college courses, but not a university degree. Others offer partial compensation by setting caps or limitations on the amount of funding.
Qualifying companies can also take advantage of tax benefits by offering tuition reimbursement. Does your company have partnerships with any universities? For example, Starbucks offers to pay tuition for employees who enroll in the Arizona State University online bachelor’s degree program.
Pick the right time to ask and the right program
Asking at the right time increases your chances of success. What’s the financial outlook of the company? Is your manager working on a particularly stressful project? Be considerate of the circumstances and make your request with the best possible timing.
Pick a program that is accredited and relevant to your role. If you are a software developer, your employer is not likely to fund a degree in art history. Discuss the curriculum and specific courses to highlight how they offer tangible benefits.
Provide a complete cost breakdown
You should know exactly what the program will cost. Break down the expenses for your manager, and explain how much financial assistance you require.
Show how it benefits the company
Investing in employee education can have a positive impact on the company’s bottom line. A 2016 analysis of health insurer Cigna’s Education Reimbursement Program showed that between 2012-2014, the company saw a 129 percent return on investment as a result of avoiding talent management costs.
Explain how your enhanced skills will allow you to take on new projects, and ways that you will use your knowledge to improve team members’ performance. You’ll bring fresh ideas and approaches that can increase savings or generate new revenue options.
The program will extend your network and establish new contacts in the industry. You will be better prepared for leadership positions within the company. This can offset the cost of hiring a new employee. By showing how it values its employees, the company will build a positive brand image.
Give details about your accomplishments and contributions to the company. Use specific examples and hard data, if possible. Emphasize that by investing in your personal growth, the company will cultivate a loyal and engaged employee. You will, in turn, invest back in the company.
Address productivity concerns
Your manager will likely be concerned about your productivity. Pick a program that will work well with your office schedule. Online programs reduce classroom time and offer a flexible schedule that allows you to work at your own pace and time. Provide specific details about how you plan to balance your workload. For example, you may work an occasional Saturday or commit to working late some evenings.
Prove your commitment
Some companies require a grade point average to ensure continued funding. If you discontinue the program, or fail to complete it within an agreed-upon period of time, your employer may require you to pay them back. Make sure you are fully committed to the program. Offer to provide monthly updates of your learning and progress.
Demonstrate your loyalty
Many companies require you to sign a contract that you will not jump ship after completing the degree. They may ask that you stay an addition a year or two, at least. Before signing a contract, make sure you feel good about the terms and conditions. Keep your end of the bargain and the result will be a win-win situation for you and the company.5