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Phoenix Forward magazine

5 ways to make your case for tuition assistance

Tuition assistance benefits

You want to earn a college degree but need help with tuition. Have you checked with your employer? A 2012 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 61 percent of companies offer employees undergraduate educational assistance, and 58 percent offer it for graduate studies.

“Even if your employer doesn’t have a formal program for tuition assistance, you may still be able to get them to contribute if you can make a compelling argument,” says Antonio Vianna, who holds a Master of Management degree and is an instructor in the MBA program at the University of Phoenix San Diego Campus.

Here are five ways to try to persuade company managers to help pay for your education:


Anticipate objections.

Before talking to your manager, prepare a list of concerns you think he or she may have, and write down solutions. When you present your case, offer these answers before your manager has a chance to raise the questions.

If you think your employer will be concerned that you’ll leave the company after earning your degree, says Vianna, a former human resource executive, “tell them you’re prepared to sign a contract guaranteeing that you will stay with them for a set number of years or they’ll get their money back.”


Choose a compatible program.

If you want your company to pitch in for your degree, focus on courses in your field.

“If you’re working in the human resource department,” Vianna explains, “getting a degree in art history isn’t really going to be a good fit.” But taking HR classes in a business program, he suggests, will be easier to sell to your boss.


Describe how you’ll improve.

Figure out the skills you think you’ll gain by going back to school, and connect them to your position to show how you’ll be better at your job, Vianna suggests.

For example, he says, tell your boss, “I will take a course in online marketing and come back to our company and be able to implement new ideas to help sell our product and services more effectively.”


Offer to share.

If your managers understand that you’ll use the knowledge and skills you gain in school to help others in the company, they’ll be more inclined to pay something toward furthering your education, Vianna says, because they’ll get a return on their investment.

“For each course taken,” he suggests, “you can offer to provide 20-minute lunch-and-learn discussions every Tuesday for employees about what you’re learning that can benefit the company.” Or, he adds, you can suggest writing a weekly highlights memo that shares best-practice techniques and other tips from your classes that week.


Point out tax benefits.

Your employer may not know that up to $5,250 spent on an employee’s education can be a tax deduction for the company, Vianna says. Explain that the tuition won’t be as high as it may seem, once the company factors in the deduction.

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