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Understanding Employer Tuition Reimbursement
By Hannah Roberts
Tuition reimbursement—graduate tuition reimbursement.  GradView offers information on graduate school tuition reimbursement programs funded by employers.Continuing your education isn't cheap—especially in the midst of family, financial, work, religious, and social obligations. For that reason, employers who offer tuition reimbursement programs have an edge in recruiting valuable employees. But since such programs often come with stipulations, it is important for a prospective graduate student to weigh all the pros and cons that come along with getting a "free" education.

Is it right for you?

The first thing to consider is how much tuition reimbursement will benefit you—after all, you're the one who will be doing the work. Find out whether your employer offers 100 percent coverage or a lesser percentage like 75 or 50. Also, be aware of any conditions that could excuse your employer from paying, such as failure on your part to meet GPA requirements, or securing additional financial aid.

Employer requirements and eligibility

Since your employer will be footing the bill, they can set all sorts of conditions. One very common requisite is that you take courses that will make you a more valuable asset to the company. Students are usually required to submit their course selections for approval. (For that matter, employees should run all program information by their employer before committing to a graduate school to avoid later confusion.)

Because some employers request that reimbursed students finish within a certain length of time, the number of credit hours that you plan to take can also affect your eligibility for tuition assistance. Most programs require students to be enrolled at least part time, so before creating your schedule, you will want to determine whether your employer grants time away from the office—with or without pay—to attend classes.

As part of your tuition reimbursement agreement, your employer may ask that you remain employed with the company for a set amount of time after graduation. Becoming well-versed in your company's policy for repayment will safeguard against the unexpected, in the event that you are unable to fulfill the agreement. It is also a good idea—if repayment may become a factor—to find out whether the aid coming from your employer is taxable or pre-taxed money. If it is untaxed, you could be responsible for paying that portion to the federal government.

As previously mentioned, your employer will want you to maintain a pre-specified level of academic success in order to qualify for reimbursement, but since all programs are different, you will need to research your company's particulars. Does failing one class disqualify you for aid altogether, or does payment decrease in parallel to your performance? Is reimbursement based on your overall GPA, or does it vary from class to class?

Although there are many questions to consider, keep in mind that your employer has a vested interest in making this process relatively easy for you: Your education will ultimately benefit the company. Given that, stand firm, and remember that by making the decision to continue your education, the hardest part is already over.

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