With the cost of a post-secondary education on the rise, it is little surprise that many students (and their parents) are looking for ways to reduce the overall cost of attending university. There are a number of strategies that one can employ in order to reduce your reliance on student loans¬†during your college years. It’s possible to save up for college, as well as work for scholarships and grants. However, another option is to carefully consider your employer.

An employer that offers tuition reimbursement might be just the thing to help you reduce your student loan debt load.

What is Tuition Reimbursement?

While I was in college, there were two call centers in town. Both of these call centers targeted the student population for workers. One of the ways these call centers attracted students was by offering tuition reimbursement. After you had worked at the company for three months, you would be eligible to have the entire cost of your tuition reimbursed to you. If you kept working at the company, you could have each semester’s tuition reimbursed. (I had a scholarship, so this program didn’t appeal to me.)

Tuition reimbursement programs vary by company, and your award depends on various factors. However, there are many employers willing to pay between 50% and 100% of your college tuition, if you meet certain requirements. This can be a great way to earn a little money while in college, and, at the same time, ensure that your tuition costs are paid for.

Check the Tuition Reimbursement Requirements

Requirements to qualify for tuition reimbursement vary, but they might include the following items:

  • Stay with the company for a specified amount of time after receiving the reimbursement
  • Maintain a certain grade point average
  • Work a minimal number of hours each week
  • Choose a major/degree related to your career field
  • Proof of enrollment in an approved program or course of study
  • Regular reports on your progress through the program

The companies in my college town weren’t very demanding. You just had to work at least 20 hours a week, and be with the company for three months to qualify. Other companies, though, might want to make sure that paying the cost of your education benefits them in some way. As a result, there are companies that will pay for technical training and certifications, as well as degree programs.

If you are interested in tuition reimbursement, talk to your company’s human resources department and find out whether a program is offered, and what you need to do to fulfill the requirements.

Paying Your Tuition with Reimbursement Programs

Depending on the company, there are different requirements for making sure that you receive the money from your tuition. While some companies might cut you a check, many other companies prefer to pay your bill directly. You can usually provide information about the bill, and your employer can disburse the funds directly to your school’s bursar or registrar or financial aid office.

If you already have student loans, and want to use the tuition reimbursement to pay off your debt, you can usually provide the required information to the company, and then a check will be sent (or an EFT will be made) to the lender. That way, the company knows that the money is actually going to cover your education costs, and you aren’t just using the money as a bonus for you to spend on something else.

Because there is another party involved, there might be more hoops for your jump through, and more paperwork to fill out. Find out from your employer, as well as from your school, what, exactly, needs to happen in order to facilitate the use of the tuition reimbursement funds for your education. You want to make sure that everything is done properly so that you get the money when you expect it.

Also, read the fine print on agreements. Some companies might require you to partially repay the tuition reimbursement amount if you don’t stay with the company for the allotted period of time, or if you don’t meet some other requirements. Understand the program, and you will be better able to make use of it to advance your knowledge and your career.

Lastly, make sure you understand the tax implication of getting tuition reimbursement from your employer.