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What are the Common Rules on a Tuition Reimbursement Policy?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2016
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Many businesses offer some form of tuition reimbursement policy. Each of these policies can be different, have a variety of limits on total payout, and might have many different exclusions or basic rules. In most cases, employees should know their company policy well so they don’t accidentally take courses for which the company won’t pay.

One feature of a tuition reimbursement policy at many organizations is that companies won’t pay if courses aren’t passed. An employee should make sure he can obtain a passing grade before signing up for a course. Usually employers pay after the course has been completed and the employee can show proof with a transcript of successfully passing one or more classes. This means that the first classes a person takes will need to be paid for out of pocket, though with later reimbursements, classes taken might not require the employee to pay money upfront. However, there may be total limitations on reimbursement available, and companies usually state this aspect of tuition reimbursement policy upfront.

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Additional common features of a tuition reimbursement policy include requirements that the employee has been working at a company for a set period of time. This can vary, but many companies require the person to have been employed for at least a year. The employee may need to work full time too, though this could vary by company. Other companies may assert employees are only eligible for reimbursement if they remain at the company a year after it has occurred; otherwise, money might have to be paid back to the company or could be removed from final checks.

Frequently companies strictly state in their tuition reimbursement policy that courses taken must be related to the work of the company. This doesn’t necessarily mean that classes taken have to be in an employee’s present area of work. A machinist might really want to work in human resources or management, and these classes may be approved because the company employs people who specialize in these things. In fact, coming from a manufacturing or other background could make a manager or human resource person invaluable, since they have knowledge of how other parts of the company work. There is just enough gray area here to make it advisable that people check with whoever administrates tuition reimbursement to verify that classes taken or degrees attempted meet any defined “related fields” standards.

There are some companies that have partnerships with local colleges. This could mean people are only eligible for tuition reimbursement if they attend a partnership college. Finding out if such tuition reimbursement policy restrictions exist is usually pretty easy, via asking human resources.

The best way to determine exactly what help is available is to carefully scrutinize a tuition reimbursement policy and ask about any details that remain unclear. There can be great variance, so discussing common features, unless it forms the basis for comparison between two companies, may not be very helpful. Another thing employees might consider if a company has no such policy is asking for one, or simply asking for tuition assistance individually. Strong arguments can be made that this working benefit is of value to a company, since it fosters company loyalty, results in a better-trained workforce, and allows for promotion from within.

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