Employer-Paid College?

How tuition reimbursement can be your path forward

When most people think about starting or continuing their college education, having their employer help foot the bill is usually not the first thing that comes to mind.

And yet, more and more employers are offering this great benefit, most commonly referred to as “tuition reimbursement.” It’s an idea that’s been around for a while, but as local employers struggle to retain and attract talent, a growing number of companies are reimagining or even adding programs.

“It’s one more tool in our toolbox and another way to get employees to choose us over another job,” said Delia Meier, Senior Vice President of Iowa 80 Group, which offers up to $1,500 each year to employees pursuing higher education.

“We believe in promoting within, and our best recruits are from within. It makes perfect sense to invite employees to continue growing their skillset any way we can, and education is an obvious choice,” she said.

Here’s how it typically works: an employee pays up front for college, graduate or continuing education classes. Then, once they’ve passed their class, the employer will refund a portion of the money spent, or the full amount. The amount covered, as well as qualifying programs of study, varies from company to company.

Some companies may only cover course costs if the path of education is related to your job. Others may require you to remain with the company for a certain period of time after completing your degree. No matter what way the program is structured, one detail remains the same — you can earn a steady paycheck and credits at the same time for a fraction of the cost.

“Continuous learning benefits everyone involved,” said Jenna Bevan, Lead Policy Manager at AT&T.

In the last five years, nine employees have earned college credit with Eastern Iowa Community Colleges thanks to the company’s policy, which encourages employees to earn degrees or even certifications in areas such as data analytics, cybersecurity or management.

“One thing we see is that people feel like they have to make a decision or struggle with the question of whether they want to be in school or start a career,” Bevan said. “We like to recruit from colleges and show how we can help people continue their education while they’re working. It doesn’t have to be an either/or choice.”

Bevan knows firsthand. This year, AT&T added professional certifications to its line-up of qualifying tuition reimbursement programs, and after 28 years with the company, she decided to head back to class.

“It motivated me to take the plunge and go back to school,” she said. “I knew I needed to go back, but it was daunting.”

The option to enroll in a professional certification program, paid for by AT&T, made the decision feel a lot less overwhelming.

“I’m now a certified HR Manager and AT&T paid for it for me. That’s a win-win,” Bevan said.

Do a simple Google search, and dozens of articles published within the last year showcase just how many companies are embracing this method of workforce education.

In fact, many Quad Cities employers have programs in place, such as John Deere, UPS, Walmart and Vibrant Credit Union, just to name a few.

With more than 30 career programs, 15+ transfer majors and a wide variety of Continuing Education offerings, employers consistently choose EICC to help train their employees.

We’d love to partner with your employer to help you further your education.

Explore our programs at eicc.edu/ourprograms

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