Smarter Ways HR Can Approach Education as a Benefit

education as a benefit
Education benefits are a hot item in the HR toolkit. According to estimates by risk-management and advisory firm Willis Towers Watson, around 90% of midsize and large employers offer education benefits of some kind.

The most innovative companies are using education as a benefit to improve recruitment efforts, increase retention and drive productivity. For others it’s an underutilized item on a checklist of things that employees expect to see on a benefits chart.

Regardless of where you are on that spectrum there are smart ways to create an educational assistance program that produces results, whether you need a complete rebuild or simply a refresh.

A More Effective Approach

A great place to start is by looking beyond how much you’re providing in educational assistance and look towards how that spend is structured. Most programs provide a consistent dollar amount each year towards a degree or certification program. While that’s easier to administer there may be a smarter way to do it that helps drive towards the goals for the company and the employee.

Instead of providing, for example, $2000 per year over 3 years for a total of $6k towards a degree, consider ramping up the payments during each year. Year 1 might be $1k, year 2 is $2k and year 3 is $3k.

Why opt for this education as a benefit model? The goal of a tuition assistance program isn’t to simply help pay to go back to school, it’s to help pay for someone to graduate with a credential that provides value to themselves and the company.

By providing a stair step assistance plan you may be more likely to incentivize what you expect while also providing more support once the employee has shown a commitment towards the goal.

Look Beyond the Typical Degree and Certificate Programs

There’s another approach as well. Let’s say for example a company in the retail space known for their excellence in customer service has an employee interested in finishing their undergraduate degree. Their initial interest may be a standard Business Administration (BSBA) degree with courses covering management, marketing, economics, etc. While there is nothing wrong with those goals, it’s definitely not a differentiator nor does it provide an individualized opportunity that would be more in line with what the retail employee may want to focus on.

However, in looking at the thousands of available online degree programs, that employee might instead opt for a BS in Consumer Sciences. This degree has courses in Consumer Economics, Consumer Marketing Management, Consumer Protection, Psychology of Money, Consumer Conflict Resolution, Consumer Communications, Consumer Demographics and Trends and more.

Each course in the degree program is specifically aligned with the focus of the organization, meaning a much higher potential for productivity of the employee and for the company. Taking advantage of the diversity of offerings in higher ed can have a direct impact on company strategy.

The Bottom Line

Finally there is the financial aspect of education. Helping employees with tuition assistance is smart, helping employees reduce their overall educational cost is even smarter. Ensuring that employees are aware of tools like CLEP, CBE and alternative credits means paying less for courses that are commonplace in a degree like Gen Eds (undergrad) or Prerequisites (Grad).

Additionally there are tactics like taking advantage of a flat tuition model or even tactical credit transfer that can lower the overall cost of a degree. In the earlier example of the BS in Consumer Sciences, the list price for that degree is just under $45,000. But a student who takes 1 additional course per year and 2 CLEP tests per year can reduce that cost by over $13,400. Add in a modest tuition assistance total of $6,000 and the total tuition is reduced by almost half. That translates into over $200 per month LESS in student loan payments.

There are a bunch of ways to make a tuition assistance program even smarter, but by simply using an incentive payout model, looking outside of the box of programs and educating on ways to save money you’ll dramatically increase the IQ of your program.

ClearDegree is an education concierge partner that works with companies and their employees to tailor tuition assistance (TA) programs that benefit both the organization and the individual. We represent a smarter way to invest in education benefits by bringing degree programs to professionals and creating a short list of ideal opportunities that are cost-effective and relative to corporate goals. Contact us to learn how you can provide a better TA program to your employees that results in higher completion rates of higher education degrees.