If you’re planning to work your way through college, consider a job that offers more than just a paycheck. Some companies pay for college — fully, partially or through other educational perks.
Combined with other cost-effective ways to pay for college — like scholarships, grants and fellowships — employer assistance can reduce your total college costs substantially and help you start your post-grad life on a strong financial footing.
National employers that pay for college
Don’t overlook your local employers. Explore the educational benefits of local companies to see what they offer. For example, Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants — a popular chain in Seattle — has a $28,000 scholarship program for employees who pass a skills test.
How do employer educational benefits work?
Employers can help pay for your college tuition in different ways. Here are a few of the most common employer tuition assistance programs.
Reimbursed tuition. Employers who offer tuition reimbursement will often pay you for qualified educational expenses after you’ve paid your college. Tuition reimbursement can be partial — where the employer covers a percentage or flat amount. Or, you can be reimbursed for full tuition. Though this helps to cover expensive college costs, it can be difficult for students who have to pay the bill upfront.
Tuition paid directly. Some employers offer tuition assistance where eligible college costs are paid directly to the school. In some cases, the company will partner with a college or educational platform — like Guild — to handle payments and administrative tasks. Similar to reimbursement, an employer can choose to cover a portion or the full cost of your education.
Employer-sponsored scholarships. Scholarships from your employer could account for tens of thousands of dollars toward your education. For example, Taco Bell offers the Live Mas scholarship — up to $25,000 — to eligible employees. As with other scholarships or merit-based rewards, you may be required to answer a set of questions that highlight your achievements and goals. You could also be required to maintain a certain GPA.
What to know about employer tuition assistance before you commit
Educational programs can vary greatly by company.
In general, a company will define the type and amount of the benefit, who is eligible and any other stipulations.
Here are a few questions to ask when evaluating a company’s educational assistance program, based on findings from the Society for Human Resource Management.
Who is eligible for tuition assistance? Some employers may offer assistance only to full-time employees or people who have worked there for a certain amount of time.
Are there certain degree types or schools that qualify? For most financial aid, you’ll need to attend an accredited university. But your employer can have additional requirements — like requiring a major that relates to your current job.
How much does the company cover? Your company could pay a percentage of eligible costs, a flat amount or the full cost.
Are other educational expenses covered? For example, will financial aid pay for textbooks and fees?
How are the funds dispersed? Your employer may require you to pay upfront and provide documentation so they can reimburse you. Or, they may have a partnership with a college or educational platform to handle payments directly.
Are there any stipulations for me to remain eligible for the benefit? You may have to stay with the company for a certain number of years after completing your program.
How do I sign up for employer educational benefits? Make sure you’re aware of any enrollment periods or deadlines ahead of time.