Working and going to school is a reality for many of today’s college students. Whether you are fresh out of high school or an adult returning to college; taking advantage of your company’s tuition reimbursement plan is a great way to help make college affordable. Understanding your company’s tuition reimbursement plan is important if you want to make the most of it, so here are some tips!
Understand the Tuition Reimbursement Program
Every company’s tuition reimbursement plan is different so it’s important that you sit down with your human resource office or manager and make sure that you get all the facts well before you start school. Some items that you want to make sure you cover are:
- Length of time with the company – For most companies you have to work for them for a certain time before you will be eligible for tuition reimbursement. Also, they might require that you stay employed with them for a certain length of time. If you leave the company before that required time, you may be stuck having to pay them back.
- Required majors – For some companies, they will only reimburse you if you are going to school for a degree that relates to their field. An accounting firm might not see your degree in interpretive dance as beneficial. Make sure that the degree that you are seeking is acceptable and will be eligible for tuition reimbursement.
- How much do they reimburse – While this seems like a no-brainer, it’s still important that you find out how much they pay out. This can then help you figure out how much you will be responsible for on your own. Also, find out if they reimburse for books and if there is a total limit to how much a person can receive during their time with the company.
- When do they pay – This is the most important item to find out from your HR office or manager. Some companies will pay out reimbursements at the start of the term with just proof that you have been accepted but some will not reimburse you until the term has ended and you have submitted your grades (hence why it’s called “reimbursement”). This is why it’s so important to find out well before class starts because if it is the latter, then you will have to find a way to cover your tuition expenses since the college will expect a payment prior to the start of school. For most students this means applying for financial aid and perhaps both government and private lender student loans to cover the cost in the interim.
- Who do they pay – This is almost as important as “when do they pay” because it’s important to know where your money is going! Whether they send you a check, add it to one of your paychecks or send it to the school directly, it’s important that you know where the money is going.
Keep Your End of the Bargain
Once you have gone over the above questions it’s important that you stick to the agreements made for you to receive your reimbursement. Completing all paperwork accurately, getting appropriate signatures from supervisors and handing in the documentation early can make all the difference in getting approval for tuition reimbursement. Your boss is not going to appreciate you coming in with paperwork to fill out and then saying, “by the way, I need this in, like, 2 hours.”
Also, make sure that you keep your grades up. Not just because good grades are important but because it might mean the difference on whether you get paid! Some companies require that you earn a certain grade or maintain a certain GPA in order to keep getting reimbursed.
Don’t slack at your job either. Yeah you are in school and you are also working but that’s no excuse to not put in an honest day’s work. They are paying for your classes; remember, and they can take it away just as easily. Most companies will stop reimbursements if poor performance or written and verbal warnings are issued.
Follow Up After First Reimbursement
Once you have received that first reimbursement check, make sure you follow-up with your HR office to see what they will need for the following semesters. You might not have to do as much as you did in the beginning, but there still might be additional documentation that they will need. Stay in contact with them to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines.
Now that you have your reimbursement, make sure you spend it wisely. If you had to cover your tuition on your own up front, now is the time to pay back on any loans you may have taken out or savings accounts you may have dipped into. Getting a nice big check at the end of the semester may be tempting but your reimbursement will only help pay for college if you actually use it to pay for college.
Finally, while you’re mainly working with your company for tuition reimbursement, it’s important that you still discuss this with your financial aid office at school. They may also have advice on how to make the reimbursement process smooth and can help provide information that you might have to submit to your employer.
Tuition reimbursements are a great perk that many companies offer but few employees actually take advantage of. A good company will want to invest money in good people when it means that they will get a valuable return on their investment.