How to Get Your Employer to Pay For Online Grad School

How to Get Your Employer to Pay For Online Grad School

Considering an online master’s degree? Well, if you’re looking for ways to increase your earning potential or take the next step in your career, the online graduate degree is a great way to do it. An even better way to do it is to get your current employer to help you pay for this advanced degree.

You might be surprised to find out just how much your company is willing to invest in your future. Indeed, if you are committed to spending some portion of that future with your current organization, you could be in line for some valuable financial support on the way to your master’s degree.

If you are still considering your options, start with a look at the Best Master’s Degrees by State.

Otherwise, read on and find out how you can get your employer to help pay for an online master’s degree...

The Online Master’s Degree is Worth It For You and Your Employer

Earning a popular advanced degree like an online MBA, online MSW, or online master’s in engineering management can translate into increased pay and immediate career advancement. To the point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that professionals with a master’s degree will, on average, earn 30% more than those with a bachelor’s degree.

In other words, an online master’s degree is worth it. But with the average price for an accredited online master’s degree typically nearing $70,000, you will need all the help you can get.

Fortunately, a growing number of employers may offer some form of educational assistance as a company benefit. And with the growing online availability of accredited master’s degree programs, it is increasingly possible to earn an advanced degree without disrupting your everyday work responsibilities. that is a great deal for you, and a great deal for your employer.

But how exactly does it work? What must you do to take advantage of this benefit? And are there strings attached?

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Find Out If Your Company Offers Tuition Reimbursement

The Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering notes that tuition reimbursement is the most common form of employer educational assistance. With tuition reimbursement, your employer will offer either partial or total repayment of the amount spent on your online grad school tuition.

If you have access to a company handbook or employee benefits package, start your fact-finding mission there. Otherwise, ask around and see if any of your coworkers have enjoyed the benefits of such a program.

To an extent, tuition reimbursement programs are more widely available than most workers realize. Believe it or not, say a 2019 study from the Society for Human Resource Management, 56% of U.S. employers do offer some form of tuition reimbursement to their workers.

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Find Out How Your Company’s Tuition Reimbursement Program Works

There is no uniform model for tuition reimbursement. Employers who provide this type of assistance may distribute payment in a number of different ways. Some employers may offer a single, flat payment amount to all recipients. Some employers may pay per course. Other employers may offer a yearly allowance with a maximum threshold.

Northeastern University notes that the average tuition reimbursement benefit falls somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000 per year. According to Northeastern, Many employers limit the amount of tuition that they will reimburse by semester, by year, or in total. Some employers will cover all of the tuition for a covered program; others will require the employee to cover a certain percentage themselves.

If you receive tuition reimbursement from your employer, be aware that any money owed beyond your company’s maximum threshold would be your responsibility.

You should also be aware that every company will have its own set of parameters for maintaining a tuition reimbursement agreement. In some cases, this money may come with no strings attached. In other cases, you may be expected to make a formal commitment to your company for a designated period of time. You may also be required to meet certain thresholds for performance and completion to maintain this benefit.

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Explore Employer Contract Options

While tuition reimbursement programs may come with varying degrees of commitment, employer contract options are typically rooted in commitment. If you are willing to make a long-term commitment to your organization, you could be in line for financial support as you pursue your online master’s degree.

Many private companies providing tuition assistance will require you to sign an Education Expense Agreement, which would likely include certain requirements including meeting an expected performance threshold in your program, reaching degree completion, and remaining within your organization for a set period of time.

This is also a fairly common procedure for those who work in government agencies. Many of these publicly funded entities have formal education and training programs where you can receive financial support toward your grad school goals. Johns Hopkins notes that Government agencies will use what is termed as an SF-182 ‘Authorization, Agreement and Certification of Training’ form. Regardless of the type of contract used, know that the signing of an employer contract is standard practice when education benefits are provided.

Just be sure that you understand the terms of your agreement, whether with a private company or a government agency, before accepting financial support. Be sure you are prepared to make the commitments required within. Violating or falling short of these terms could saddle you with the responsibility to repay the cost of your education to your company.

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Schedule a Meeting With HR

Once you have a complete understanding of the options available to you, it is time to schedule a meeting with your HR department. Some companies advertise their educational support programs openly. Others are more discreet about these opportunities, but may be willing to point you in the right direction upon inquiry. Other companies may have no formal education assistance policy. But that does not necessarily mean your employers would not be receptive to the idea. In other words, you should always be willing to ask.

Start with the HR department. Find out what your options are, what steps you need to take to get the ball rolling, and what measures you can take to improve your odds of landing this type of employer support.

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Have a Plan in Place

While you should have questions prepared for your HR representative, you should also come prepared with your own set of comprehensive answers. What are your grad school goals? What do you plan to achieve in your program? How will your new knowledge, skills, and credentials be of value to your employer?

Develop a comprehensive plan for what you intend to accomplish in grad school and delineate the ways you will use your qualifications to advance your organization. As it happens, you will likely need to submit a study plan to your intended graduate school as part of your admissions process. Prepping this material for your employer could actually give you a jump start on this important step.

Before you walk into a meeting with HR, or any senior decision maker in your organization, get your grad school plan in place. And do not forget to mention that, thanks to the growing availability of credible online grad school programs, you can earn this advanced degree without taking any time away from work. Employers love hearing stuff like that.

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Mention the Tax Advantages

Employers also love hearing about tax benefits that they could be receiving. If you work for a company without an established tuition reimbursement program, it is still worth inquiring, especially if you have a positive and open relationship with your company’s leadership.

This conversation is also a great opportunity for you to mention that your employer could enjoy certain tax benefits for supporting your grad school goals. According to Johns Hopkins, Companies are permitted a $5,250 tax education benefit per employee each year. Also a plus, employees can expect that their tuition reimbursement amount of up to $5,250 will not be included in their W2 forms. And remember, expenses are not restricted to tuition only. These include all related materials such as books, supplies, and registration.

This also reinforces an important point. we have said it already, but it bears repeating. do not be afraid to ask. Just because your employer does not already have a tuition reimbursement program in place does not mean that they would not be willing to do it. You could be a pioneer in your organization.

Find out more about your company’s policies and get your plan in place.

Naturally, a big part of getting your plan in place is finding the best online grad school for you. Check out our Custom College Rankings, where you can build your own list of online grad schools based on factors like cost, location, acceptance rate, and much more.

Get tips for choosing and applying to advanced degree programs both in person and online with a look at our Grad Life Guide.

See our Resources Guide for much more on studying, starting your job search, and more.

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