Maximizing Tuition Reimbursement: Your Guide to Education Funding
It is no secret that covering educational costs, especially college tuition, can be challenging. According to NCES, the average cost of a four-year degree was $36,436 in 2022. If you are considering furthering your education to improve your career prospects or enter an in-demand field, you might have access to tuition reimbursement programs through your employer.
If you are wondering what tuition reimbursement is, you have come to the right place. Our detailed guide will walk you through all the basics of how this form of financial assistance works and how you can access it. We also discuss major companies that offer tuition reimbursement and some of the most common tuition reimbursement jobs.
What Is Tuition Reimbursement?
Tuition reimbursement programs offer financial assistance to help employees cover the cost of their educational expenses. They are company-sponsored and typically cover courses, degrees, or certifications that are directly relevant to the employee’s job or career advancement.
How Does Tuition Reimbursement Work?
Tuition reimbursement policies are usually set by your company’s human resources department. Most employers have set guidelines that outline what forms of education qualify for tuition assistance. Factors that affect eligibility criteria can include length of employment, job performance, and relevance of the education to your current or future roles within the company.
Here is a detailed guide on how tuition reimbursement works and how to apply for it.
Step 1: Eligibility and Criteria
Speak with your HR department to identify if they offer continuing education benefits or tuition reimbursement programs. Make sure to find out what percentage of your tuition the company will cover, what subjects and courses qualify, and what requirements you need to meet to receive reimbursement.
Furthering education benefits are often underutilized, so it is worth reviewing what opportunities are available with your employer while you are exploring your options. According to SHRM, 78 percent of employers in the US cover opportunities for employees to develop new skills, and nearly half offer undergraduate or graduate tuition assistance.
Step 2: Course Selection and Pre-Approval
Armed with this information, it is now time for you to select the courses, programs, or certifications you want to pursue. Be ready to explain how your selections align with your career goals and, ideally, how they will benefit your employer.
Not all companies that offer tuition reimbursement require that employees get their programs pre-approved, but it is best to run your selections by your HR department either way, just to be on the safe side. Submit the details about your course, chosen institution, costs, and how the training relates to your job and career development.
Step 3: Payment
In most cases, you will have to pay for your own tuition upfront with personal funds. If it is necessary, you can also apply for other forms of financial aid, such as student loans, grants, or scholarships.
Step 4: Complete Your Course, Degree, or Certificate Program
To receive your reimbursement, you will have to successfully complete your chosen program, usually according to established standards. For example, you might have to earn a passing grade, graduate within a set period of time, or maintain a certain GPA.
Make sure to carefully keep track of your educational progress and financial records so you will have the proper documentation to submit to your employer upon graduation.
Step 5: Reimbursement
After you complete your training program successfully, submit your documentation to your employer for verification. Once they review your submission, your employer will reimburse you for a portion or all of your expenses. The amount you are reimbursed will have been outlined in your company’s tuition reimbursement policy.
Tuition Reimbursement Requirements
How do you qualify for tuition reimbursement at your company? The exact criteria will depend on your employer, but there are a few considerations most HR departments have in common. Tuition reimbursement requirements usually include:
- Course approval. Most employees restrict what courses qualify for tuition assistance. For example, you might need to choose a program from a partner network or from an accredited college or university.
- Employment status. You may need to work at your company for a period of time before becoming eligible. Additionally, you may need to be a full-time or part-time employee, rather than a contract or temporary worker.
- Relevance to job. Tuition reimbursement is usually tied to the relevance of your coursework or degree to your current job or career within the company. The education you receive should benefit both you and your employer.
- Work commitment. In some cases, you will need to commit to continuing to work for your company for a certain period after receiving your tuition assistance.
Top 5 Companies That Offer Tuition Reimbursement
Tuition reimbursement has grown in popularity over the last decade, especially over the last few years. Many of the largest companies in the country offer generous tuition reimbursement programs to invest in their employees and close skill gaps. Here is a rundown of the top tuition reimbursement companies.
Target’s tuition reimbursement program provides access to debt-free undergraduate degrees, certificates, coding bootcamps, and courses. Over 340,000 employees are eligible, including full-time and part-time hourly workers. Additionally, Target partners with a network of universities to fund master’s degrees, providing employees $10,000 annually.
Target Tuition Reimbursement Eligibility Requirements
- You must be a full-time or part-time employee
- Employees are eligible from their first day on the job
Home Depot’s tuition reimbursement policy is generous and applies to all salaried, full-time and part-time workers who enroll in college, university, or technical school courses. The amount you are able to receive annually ranges between $1,500 and $5,000 annually, depending on your position.
Home Depot Reimbursement Eligibility Requirements
- You must earn a grade of “C” or above
- You must be a part-time or full-time employee, not temporary
- Your course must be offered by an accredited institution
Through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, eligible Starbucks employees receive 100 percent tuition coverage if they complete their first bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program. Starbucks’ tuition reimbursement program does not cover additional expenses, including textbooks, school supplies, and laptops.
Starbucks Reimbursement Eligibility Requirements
- You must be benefits-eligible
- You must be based in the US
- The program only covers employees earning their first bachelor’s degree
Amazon offers rigorous higher education support through a program called Career Choice. Amazon’s tuition reimbursement covers bachelor’s degrees, high school GEDs, professional career coaching, and skill certifications. They prepay tuition and even reimburse books and fees until you hit your annual maximum.
Amazon Tuition Reimbursement Requirements
- You must be a full-time employee
- Employees are eligible after 90 days of employment
Chipotle tuition reimbursement covers high school completion, undergraduate and master’s degrees, coding bootcamps, and short-form learning certificates in subjects including technology, healthcare, and business. Employees receive $5,250 per year for undergraduate degrees and certificates and $10,000 per year for master’s degrees.
Chipotle Tuition Reimbursement Requirements
- You must choose a program from a Gild Education partner school
- You must work at least 15 hours per week for 4 months to become eligible
Jobs That Offer Tuition Reimbursement
Tuition reimbursement is available for a wide range of jobs, as it is a popular benefit offered by many large corporations. However, jobs that offer tuition reimbursement do occur in some sectors more than others. If you are considering a career change and want to pursue further education, you might want to explore jobs in these fields.
- Technology. Tech companies are known for valuing continuous learning and skill development. Many of them offer tuition reimbursement programs to help employees stay current with the rapidly changing tech landscape or prepare for new tech careers.
- Healthcare. Healthcare organizations, including hospitals and medical centers, often offer tuition reimbursement to healthcare professionals and support staff as a way to improve patient care and address staff shortages.
- Finance. Banks, financial institutions, and insurance companies often provide tuition reimbursement to employees pursuing degrees or certifications related to finance, business, or insurance.
- Education. Universities, colleges, and schools frequently offer tuition remission or reimbursement benefits to their employees. This can be particularly attractive for individuals looking to advance their education while working in an educational setting.
- Well-established companies. Regardless of your field, looking for a job at a large corporation will give you the best chance at accessing tuition assistance, as they are more likely to have established tuition reimbursement policies.
Are There Part-Time Jobs That Offer Tuition Reimbursement?
Yes, you can find part-time jobs with tuition reimbursement benefits at numerous major corporations, including Target, Starbucks, Walmart, UPS, and Chipotle. It is not uncommon for companies to extend tuition reimbursement opportunities to part-time workers, as long as they continue to work a set number of hours each week.
Should I Take Advantage of Tuition Reimbursement Programs?
Yes, if your company offers tuition reimbursement, you should consider taking advantage of the opportunity to make your education costs more manageable. Gaining additional training or professional certifications can help you progress in your career at a faster pace, and many educational programs can be prohibitively costly.
Many companies that offer tuition reimbursement programs are very flexible with what courses they cover and provide options for employees at every level of their careers. As long as you pay close attention to the qualifications and expectations outlined in your company’s tuition reimbursement policy, participating in these programs can be very beneficial for your personal and professional growth.
Tuition Reimbursement FAQ
Tuition reimbursement does not disqualify you from receiving federal or state financial aid, grants, or private scholarships. However, tuition reimbursement does count toward your financial sources, so it may affect the amount of federal aid you are awarded.
If your tuition reimbursement funds exceed $5,250 in a calendar year, you will be required to pay income tax on any benefits received over that amount, according to the IRS.
The main disadvantages of tuition reimbursement for employees include the potential burnout that comes from working and studying simultaneously and the fact that company policies generally limit what courses or colleges you can attend. Employees can also be laden with unexpected expenses if they are unable to maintain their grades and no longer qualify for reimbursement.
In some cases, you cannot quit for a certain period of time after receiving tuition reimbursement benefits. If you decide to leave the company, you might be required to pay back the money you used for your education. However, each company has its own expectations and policies in this matter.