SSM Health removes barriers to education with program that provides upfront tuition fundsRead More


March 3rd, 2021 · 5 min read

Understanding employee tuition reimbursement

employee tuition reimbursement header image

What is employee tuition reimbursement?

Tuition assistance vs tuition reimbursement

How does employee tuition reimbursement work?

  • The company reimburses the employee only up to a certain amount of money per calendar year. This is sometimes based on the grades earned by the employee. For example, if the employee receives an A average, the company will pay 100 percent of the maximum reimbursement amount. If the employee receives a B, the company will pay 80 percent and so on.
  • Tuition reimbursement benefits might apply only to specific courses and those courses may need to be completed within a specific timeframe.
  • The employee receiving tuition assistance may be required to stay with the company for an allotted period of time before changing positions or leaving the organization altogether.

Can you make employees pay back tuition reimbursement?

The benefits of employee tuition reimbursement

  • Continuing education helps with career advancement and better overall performance. According to one study from the Pew Research Center, 47 percent of employees who sought out continuing education say that their career advanced after they gained these new skills and 87 percent said that they felt more capable in their current positions.
  • Employees with post-secondary degrees tend to feel more secure and valued at their place of work — especially if their company helped them earn that degree. This leads to improved retention, and may turn employees into passionate brand ambassadors for the organization. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree in 2020 was 1.8 percent less than that among high school graduates.
  • Providing access to learning and education shows prospective job candidates that your organization values its employees and is committed to their long-term professional development. This can be a powerful tool for attracting qualified talent who are eager to learn and grow with your organization. 

The challenges of employee tuition reimbursement

  • Policy restrictions
    The employee tuition reimbursement policy might have stipulations that are too difficult for employees to meet and discourage them from taking advantage of the program. 
  • Financial barriers
    A tuition reimbursement program might not actually make education more affordable for the employees – this is especially true if there’s a cap on the amount that the employee is able to have reimbursed. Educational expenses can be so much greater than just tuition and often exclude costs like textbooks, obligatory school fees and loan interest. All of these are still significant financial barriers for many employee learners.
  • Only applicable to the current position
    Employees pursue continuing education to make meaningful advancements or shifts in their careers. But some reimbursement policies will only fund education specific to the employee’s current position instead of the one they’re looking to grow into. This offers little incentive for the employee to commit to learning when there’s no likelihood of advancement.

Going beyond tuition reimbursement

  • Strategic design: An effective workforce education is more than just a benefit. It’s specifically designed around your long-term business objectives and the unique learning and skill-building needs of your workforce. 
  • Flexible platform: InStride’s flexible technology platform makes maintaining an education program simple for administrators. You can monitor enrollment, streamline billing, and track performance in real-time.
  • Academic network: Businesses need to partner with high-quality academic institutions that are flexible, scalable, and provide the right learning and support for adult students.

You can address talent development challenges