Want Your Employer to Pay for Your Education?
By Kerry Knapp
Monster Contributing Writer
If you’re enticed by those Sally Struthers "train-at-home-for-a-better-career” commercials and the fabulous opportunities they promise, I can go one better.
How about going back to school while continuing to work, and getting your employer to pick up the tab?
There’s no magical recipe for making it happen, but these five steps will put the odds in your favour!
1. Decide whether to ask
While it seems like a no-brainer to ask your employer to help fund your education, there may be good reasons not to.
If your subject of choice is the mating habits of the East African naked mole rat or something else with zero on-the-job applicability, it’s probably not worthwhile seeking employer funding.
Likewise, if your subject could make your boss seriously suspect you’re jumping ship, keep your educational projects to yourself.
2. Find out what your employer offers
Many employers already offer education-funding programs. Along with a better-trained workforce, employers benefit from greater employee loyalty, better morale and less turnover. So find out if your company already has a program and get all the details.
Some cover professional certifications and college courses, but not university degree programs.
Many companies set caps or limitations, such as a fixed dollar amount per employee or course. Amounts may be higher for employees with more seniority or those pursuing higher-level education.
Reimbursements can vary according to the grade you earn. For example, you may be 100% reimbursed for an A, 75% for a B, and so on.
If your workplace doesn’t have a program, you’re free to propose terms of your own. Think about what’s in your and your employer’s best interests, and come up with a win-win package.
3. Prepare and Negotiate
Put yourself in your manager’s shoes. If an employee asked you to fund his or her education, you’d want to know why the company should pay and how it would benefit. Make sure you have thorough, well-thought-out answers before your meeting, and rehearse before you go.
Put together a clear, organized presentation. Align your educational goals with corporate objectives, and show direct, specific benefits (enhanced performance, taking on greater responsibilities, sharing info with other employees, etc.).
Make sure you can back up your claims with cold, hard facts.
Allay any fears about absences or the possibility you’re leaving the company. You may have to sign a commitment to stay on for a certain number of years.
If you have to and you’re comfortable doing so, make a deal with your boss or HR department (“pay for my program and I’ll guarantee enhanced performance”).
4. If the Answer Is “Yes”
Determine exactly how funding will work, how much your employer will pay, and what academic standards must be met.
Make sure you’re protected by getting the agreement and all the particulars in writing.
Include answers to questions like what happens if you quit work, fall sick or leave school, or at what time any obligation to remain with your employer begins and ends.
5. If You Get a “No”
Be prepared with alternatives in case your request is turned down.
If your company is strapped for cash, you might want to ask your employer to pay for your studies in lieu of another benefit, such as a raise.
Consider compromising. If university-level courses are a problem, set your sights on something else.
If you still get a “no”, you may have to concede this round. But ask your boss to explain his or her reasons so you can prepare for future requests. Take advantage of your annual performance review to discuss the education you need to do your job better. And when the time is ripe, try again!
By following these steps, you’ll maximize your chances of getting your employer to help fund your education. Sally Struthers, eat your heart out!