5 Tips for Turbocharging your Tuition Assistance Program

tuition assistance programs
Tuition and education assistance programs are a hot benefit item. Companies are looking to enhance the education of their workforce, and employees are looking for ways to finish their degree (or get the next one) at a lower cost. Companies can get a strong return from their tuition assistance program in the form of lower recruiting expense, higher retention and increased productivity – but only if they have a tuition assistance program that employees can use to find the right program at the right institution at the right price.

There are many innovative ways to improve tuition assistance ROI that benefit both the employer and employee. It’s not enough to simply have a program that checks a box on a list of benefits. Employees want a degree to improve their career opportunities, but in reality, they know very little about how to find the right program. It’s not about the cheapest degree program or the program at the well-known brand-name school or even a program that partner’s with the company for an employee discount. It should be about getting the perfect match for that individual employee based on their specific needs and the company’s specific goals.

When partnering with companies to maximize the productivity of their tuition assistance programs, these are a few of the tactics we find turn a benefits bullet point into a real difference maker.

  1. Establish a Gateway based on the “3 Ps”. Using your tuition assistance program should be more than just 90 days on the job and then filling out a form. Use a Q&A process to evaluate the employee’s personal/professional/academic profile, their preparation for going back to school and their preferences for various features of a college/program. When doing this we often see that it fine tunes their education goals and sometimes prevents going to school without being really ready.
  2. Expand your Horizons. We see too many companies limiting the online degree areas that qualify for reimbursement. Most retailers for example would pay for a degree in Finance, Marketing, Supply Chain Management and the like. But what about a degree in Human Environmental Sciences? This may not seem like an obvious option, but this affordable degree at a well-known college has over 15 courses in strategy, marketing and selling specifically to consumers.
  3. Dynamic Investing. Are you paying a flat amount per year in tuition assistance? What if you had a more dynamic program that incentived completion? Start with a smaller amount and then increase each year; that way you’re spending more on those who are more likely to finish. Also, focus your spending on tuition only as the other costs like books are more variable, and users should be incentived to minimize those costs.
  4. Bridge the Gap. How can you help employees reduce the gap between your tuition assistance and their degree cost? A good degree plan includes various methods to reduce overall cost including transfer credits, alternative credits (e.g. CLEP), credit for company training (via groups like NCCRS) and credit for life/work experience. When creating plans we’ve not only seen costs reduced by 30% or more but also time in school reduced by a full year; which means your strong ROI comes even faster!
  5. Leverage the Power of Choice. Online programs are preferred by many working professionals for their convenience and flexibility. But most of all they exponentially expands the number of options, meaning employees can find a program that is a perfect match for their individual needs. Take a specific degree like a Master’s in Health Informatics. In Florida there are a grand total of two ground programs available. Online however there are 80 programs across the country at price points ranging from $80k down to $16,200, which means there’s a great degree program for pretty much anyone.

These are just a few of the many ways to turn your tuition assistance program into a strategic tool for your company and an incredibly useful and popular benefit for your employees.

We talk to many HR professionals who want to give their tuition assistance program a boost but need a partner to help implement it. To see a real-world example of what the return on investment looks like when using a company like ClearDegree for your employees, click here to download our white paper and learn more or check out ClearDegree for Employers.

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