Need tuition money to attend an online school? Check with your employer.
Many companies have tuition assistance benefits that cover at least part of the cost for online college education. Some even pay for your children and spouse to get educated.
A recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 63 percent of companies offered undergraduate educational assistance and almost as many—59 percent—also covered graduate education.
The number of employers offering these benefits has dropped slightly over the past few years and some companies plan to discontinue or reduce such benefits next year.
Still, it's worth your while to check to see if your company provides educational assistance.
Here are four ways your company may offer online education tuition assistance benefits:
1) Get employed at a company that has a generous college tuition reimbursement plan before enrolling in college.
- Some companies will pay 100 percent of an employee's college tuition provided it is work-related. But most companies will pay only a maximum each calendar year—often up to $2,000. Some will pay for children or spouses through company-run charitable foundations.
- In most cases corporate training benefits can be applied to online and distance learning as well as residential learning. Just make sure you attend an accredited online school or an online continuing education provider who is pre-approved to offer specialized certificates or certifications in your career area.
- Public companies are most likely to have the most comprehensive education benefits plans, but even small firms will pay a part of the tuition bill, especially if they are approached with the notion that an investment in your knowledge base will be an investment in the knowledge base of the company as a whole.
2) Check with your HR department to see if your company has a special scholarship program for employees or their dependents.
- Have your spouse check with his or her employer, too.
- The 2009 Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 17 percent of employers provided scholarships to family members, while 2 percent offered educational loans for members of employees' families.
- These numbers were down from a similar survey in 2005, when 27 percent offered scholarships to family members and 7 percent offered loans.
3) Persuade the boss that the courses you are taking are directly relevant to your current job.
- Never assume your company won't pay for at least part of your tuition. Your boss may not pay for your entire distance degree but chances are he or she will pay for some of your online courses.
- Negotiate for such tuition benefits if they don't already exist. Show how the information you will learn can help the company in some way.
- For example, your business courses may help you develop a new marketing database or strategy that will save your company more than the cost of the classes.
4) If you take continuing education or training courses related to your job, check to see if these online courses have been pre-approved for college-level credit.
- If they have, you may be able to apply these courses to your distance degree.
- Non-collegiate training programs can often be converted to online college credit through a portfolio process. But many large corporations, such as AT&T, have subjected their training courses to a special review process sponsored by the American Council on Education's Program on Non-Collegiate Sponsored Instruction (ACE/PONSI), known today as the CREDIT program.
- CREDIT allows non-college educators, such as AT&T, to have their in-house training courses reviewed by college assessors. These assessors examine course content, textbooks and classroom procedures. If they find that individual courses are "college level," they recommend that a certain number of college credits be awarded for successful course completion.
- About half of all regionally accredited colleges accept ACE recommendations for degree credit. The other half may not accept them, or may severely restrict the number and kinds of ACE credits they will accept in transfer.
- Check for training courses offered by your employer that may be pre-approved for online college at ACE’s free National Guide to College Credit for Workforce Training.
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