Employer Assisted Tuition: 8 Strategies to Persuade Your Boss
If you’re concerned about how you’re going to pay for your imminent return to college, we’ve found a little-known option that just might make it easier for you to afford your tuition: employer tuition assistance. It can be intimidating to approach your boss and ask for their help, especially when you’re asking for money, but we’ve put together some strategies that will make it easier to persuade your boss. Being prepared can make the whole process a lot less intimidating, and a whole lot more likely to succeed.
The current federal tax code allows employers to give each employee up to $5,250 each year, tax free, to be spent on their education. What this means for you is that you don’t pay taxes on this income, and your employer can deduct what they give you for your education from their gross profit, reducing their tax burden at the end of the year. This small benefit of lowering their tax burden can be highly motivational, persuading many big-name employers to provide tuition assistance to their staff.
1. Know Your Value
Knowing your value within the company can be a major confidence boost, and it just might alleviate some stress when approaching your boss to ask for their assistance paying for school. To find out just how much you benefit the company, ask yourself:
- How long have I worked for the company?
- What aspects of my job do I do well?
- How long do I plan to stay with the company?
- What would happen to the company if I left?
Also consider what the company’s financial situation is. Employees are often privy to important financial information, but you might not have the whole picture. Thinking about the company that way can help you to determine the right time to ask for help.
2. Study the Benefits
Our first article on employer tuition assistance explores it benefits both you and the company that you work for. Perhaps not all of these benefits will be applicable to you in your current role, but you can use that information as ammunition to approach your boss and discuss how going back to school benefits both of you.
3. Anticipate Potential Objections
Ever practice an important conversation in the mirror? We all practice our conversations ahead of time, imaging what the other person might say, and the objections they might bring up.
By imagining objections your boss might raise when you present the idea of employer tuition assistance, you can prepare your answers ahead of time.
What are some potential objections? One possibility is that your boss might think that going to class will take time away from your work. In that case, your reply could be framed around how the program you’re interested in offers online courses and flexible class schedules.
Another potential concern is that a tuition assistance program will cost the company too much money. This is where you can show your boss the value that can be gained from the program. Though a tuition assistance program does cost the company money up front, that cost is often less than what it costs to hire and train new employees.
By going through classes, you should develop new skills and knowledge that will make you a better employee, and bring new value to the company, possibly even increasing profits. Use this information to tailor your response to your boss, the skills you plan to learn, and how that will improve the company you work for.
Think of as many possible objections and corresponding solutions, and write them all down.
4. Create a Sample Agreement
Any tuition assistance program should include a contract or agreement between you and your employer. An agreement serves to protect both of you and communicate potential misunderstandings before beginning.
Showing your employer a sample of what you think should be part of the agreement, can dissolve any potential concerns or fears that they have. What to include:
- Required GPA
- What happens if you stop going to class
- How long you will remain with the company after finishing the program
- How and when funds will be paid or reimbursed for classes
- How much you need for tuition assistance
5. Reveal Your Ambition
Much of what we’ve recommended so far will speak to your employer’s business side: money, statistics, and business success. But you can also appeal to their emotions by sharing your ambitions, intentions, and passions.
Take time in your private meeting with your employer to explain to him why you want to go back to school. Share the factors that have motivated you and make you passionate about your work. Tell them your desires and how these classes will benefit you personally—and benefit their business. Most employers truly care about their employees, and this is your time to show them just what their help could mean to you.
6. Practice Your Pitch
Before your planned appointment with your boss, practice what you’re going to say with friends and family. The more prepared and composed you are, the more likely you are to convince your boss. Even if you don’t feel confident yet, act confident.
7. Have a Plan B, But Strive for Plan A
Having your employer help you pay for school would be wonderful, but it’s not the only option. It’s possible that after all this work, your employer will say no. Having a back-up can make you feel more secure in your pitch to your boss, knowing if he say’s no, you have an alternative path to explore.
8. Be Patient and Be Persistent!
Even if your employer agrees to help you pay for school, it can take time to implement the program. Give your employer the time they need to plan and execute the program to help you go back to school. That being said, it’s OK to send a friendly check-in if you haven’t head anything in a while, but be considerate of your boss’s time.
Most of all, remember, you can do this! An employee tuition assistance program isn’t odd, many large companies have seen the benefits they produce and have instituted programs to take advantage of those benefits. We also recommend that you have patience, as these programs can take time to put into place, possibly more than a year.
If you haven’t read our first article, check it out now to learn about major companies who have implemented employee tuition assistance programs.
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