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Guide to Employers Who Subsidize Online Education

With the ever-increasing emphasis on continual learning for career advancement, mounting college debt has become a fact for many professionals. Today’s working adults often find themselves juggling career demands, family, household duties, and advanced education. Fortunately, the flexibility of online education has afforded many working professionals the ability to advance their careers by furthering their education on their own time.

Of course, the cost of furthering their education mid-career becomes overly burdensome for many professionals who are also at a time in life when mortgages and family obligations are top priority. And still, the expense of college remains out of reach for many youngsters still trying to scrape together resources for undergraduate learning.

Some companies these days, however, aren’t just offering employees a paycheck. Amongst many perks of working for some of the country’s top employers is help with paying for college. These forward-thinking organizations realize the advantages of investing in their human assets. They value employee satisfaction and the future profitability of employees with the skill sets and knowledge to advance their market position. Both advances in technology and the increasing availability of online courses makes it easier for companies to employ students who take classes on their own time.

So why not take advantage of this huge employee benefit and work for a company that values their employees’ career advancement?

Starbucks College Achievement Plan

Known for its happy culture and generous employee benefits, Starbucks offers 100 percent tuition reimbursement for online bachelor’s degrees from Arizona State University. The Starbucks College Achievement Plan is quite a leap for a major company and even provides full education opportunities to part-time employees while they earn their degree.

Starbucks and Arizona State partnered to offer Starbucks employees essentially a free education if working towards a bachelor’s degree for the first time. There are eighty different online undergraduate degree programs to choose from, including technical areas of study like software engineering, data analytics, and engineering management. As an added perk, if an employee is a veteran or member of the armed services, she is able to pass her eligibility on to a child dependent.

How It Works

Employees begin earning eligibility during their second month of Starbucks employment, and after three consecutive months of working at the coffee giant (at least 240 work hours), employees are eligible to apply for study at ASU.

Arizona State gives Starbucks employees a 42 percent scholarship from the get-go and helps participants apply for student aid and financial assistance. Participants are responsible for paying any tuition and fees that are not paid for by the university or student aid, and then Starbucks reimburses employees for out-of-pocket tuition expenses at the end of each semester through their paychecks. Course fees, books and technology fees are not covered, but the program’s website claims that many students’ financial assistance covers those unreimbursed items.

In the event that eligible applicants are denied admission to ASU, a university representative will counsel students towards academic success through the Pathway to Admission Program. Students have the opportunity to reach admission goals by completing up to ten freshman-level courses at ASU designed to help build the foundation for university admission, and all fees are covered.

Not sure about working at Starbucks? I’ve never been greeted by an unhappy barista, which means the company is doing something right—giving their employees many reasons to keep smiling.

UPS Earn and Learn Program

UPS’s Earn and Learn tuition assistance program offers employees up to $5,250 in annual tuition assistance, with a whopping lifetime maximum of $25,000. Eligibility begins immediately, and part-timers can take advantage of the program, with opportunities for full coverage of tuition and fees with partner universities.

How It Works

UPS has a special arrangement with the local government in Louisville, KY to offer eligible employees a free undergraduate education. Students work part time for UPS at the airport for the Next-Day Air Division (the UPS Worldport Freight Facility in Louisville) during the night—with start times between 9:00 PM and 4:00 AM. Students are paid a regular wage and can even earn bonuses of up to $1,400 for stellar academic performance.

In exchange for their service to UPS in Louisville, students get their in-state tuition paid for at either Jefferson Community Technical College or the University of Louisville. There are no restrictions on the area of study, and both institutions are considered part of Metropolitan College, the program hub for the Louisville-based tuition reimbursement program. Metropolitan College participants can choose from a variety of degree programs, many online, offered at either institution.

For UPS employees not willing to relocate to the Louisville area, the UPS tuition assistance program is a great option. The company’s hire from within philosophy fuels program support for part-time employees to advance their career goals while working for a company that believes in investing in their future. United Parcel Service claims that over 70 percent of their managers were once part-time hourly employees of the company, climbing their way through the ranks as they furthered their education.

One way to take advantage of UPS’s generous tuition reimbursement program is through the online degree offerings at Thomas Edison State University, a strictly online public institution in New Jersey. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs of study are delivered entirely online, and include areas of study such as business administration, psychology, computer science, English, and even operations management—a great choice for students who would like to climb the ranks within the UPS organization. Thomas Edison State even offers an online MBA program. Many UPS employees are eligible for tuition vouchers, which means they do not have to pay for tuition upfront and wait to be reimbursed by the employer—UPS handles it from the beginning.

Since the UPS lifetime cap of $25,000 likely won’t cover the entire cost of an undergraduate degree ($309 per credit-hour), many students receive financial aid. Thomas Edison accepts UPSers from all over the country, so New Jersey residency is not a requirement.

A representative from the office of admissions at Thomas Edison noted that much of the training that UPS offers employees is directly applicable to some degree programs, and in many cases can be used towards college credit. The operations management program in particular is most directly applicable to UPS employee training, and many students choose this area of study to continue their work with UPS.

David B., a 32-year UPS employee, attests to how satisfied employees are with the overall pay and benefits package at UPS. Many of the employees he has known over the years that took advantage of the hefty tuition reimbursement program have left the company to pursue their fields of study, though some, he notes, have chosen to stay on as well-paid hourly employees.

While the Louisville-based undergraduate program requires students to work in the night, David informed me that part-timers who take advantage of general tuition reimbursement at his Dallas hub are able to work one of three shifts that will work with their school schedules.

Raytheon Tuition Assistance Program

While many engineering and tech companies offer tuition assistance to employees, Raytheon stands out with one of the more robust tuition assistance programs, offering full-time employees up to a whopping $10,000 in annual assistance as long as the courses and degree program will provide value to Raytheon. Part-timers can receive up to $5,000 per year, and both hourly and salaried employees are eligible with no waiting period.

How It Works

Students are required to get approval from Raytheon before enrolling in courses, but there is no requirement that study lead to a degree. As long as the courses are accredited from an accredited institution and will help to advance the employee at Raytheon, they are eligible for assistance approval. Employees may file for reimbursement within sixty days of completing the course, and lab fees, course fees, and the cost of books are also eligible for reimbursement.

What’s notable about Raytheon is that employees who are looking to earn advanced degrees at an early point in their career have big opportunity with this company. Raytheon hires new college grads, and even offers full-time internships with the opportunity for full-time employment after interning.

Overall, working at Raytheon is a great way to advance a blossoming career. Not all positions are technical in nature as the large organization has opportunities in human resources and accounting, among others. Raytheon emphasizes leadership, so budding leaders ought to consider their options here, with a large geographical footprint for a broad scope of opportunity.

Google Tuition Reimbursement Program

From riding a slide down to the first floor to grabbing an outdoor HIT workout, it’s no secret that Googlers have fun at work. The internet giant prides itself on a healthy work environment and excellent employee benefits.

Google encourages employees to pursue their passions and side projects; in fact, they used to push that 20 percent of an employee’s time ought to be spent on passion pursuits and working for the tech superstar makes furthering education and career advancement quite accessible.

How It Works

Eligible employees can receive up to $12,000 in annual tuition reimbursement provided that the continued education is relevant to their jobs. Employees must earn a grade of A or B to be eligible for reimbursement, and there isn’t a restriction on a traditional brick-and-mortar versus an online delivery method.

Google’s home in the Bay Area has fostered an advantageous relationship with Stanford University’s Center for Professional Development, providing a variety of educational opportunities to Google employees.

Googlers have the opportunity to take non-degree graduate certificate courses in topics like advanced software systems and visual computing. Most of the courses are delivered online, so employees based outside the Bay Area can still participate. The weight of the Stanford credential alone makes stacking up as many of these certificates as time allows a worthwhile goal.

Stanford’s corporate education program also welcomes Google employees to participate in a variety of non-degree, non-certificate courses—most delivered online. Some are even taught on site at Google.

For those wishing to use their education benefits toward an advanced degree, Stanford has a host of master’s degree programs perfect for the tech-savvy with online courses in areas such as data mining and entrepreneurial management, and its location makes it suitable for northern California-based Google employees to incorporate some onsite learning as well.

Regardless of the chosen institution, a $12,000 annual tuition benefit is worth serious thought when considering Google as a potential workplace.

Military GI Bill & Other Tuition Assistance

Perhaps one of the most dynamic tuition benefits is that offered to armed service personnel. As long as students are working towards a degree of some kind from an accredited institution, the military pays tuition—and eligible employees and veterans don’t have to wait to be reimbursed by paying out of their own pockets.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is perhaps the most well-known college tuition benefit granted through military service. After four years of service, veterans (or their designated dependents) are eligible for 36 months of financial and tuition support while going to college.

How It Works

Financial support includes a generous housing allowance based on the cost of living of the school’s location or the student’s place of residence (as long as the student is not receiving a housing allowance from another source), money for books, and money for tuition.

The amount of tuition benefit isn’t set. Instead, it’s based off of the school’s home state, and is loosely capped at a rate of the highest public school’s tuition rate in that state. But it doesn’t stop there. If a private institution’s tuition exceeds the public school’s rate, the government will still pay a portion of that tuition above and beyond the rate, and in many cases, schools find ways to work with students on the balance—in the form of scholarships or adjusted rates.

The cushion of receiving financial support while attending school, in the form of a housing allowance, is a very special provision for veterans. There are limitations, though, to the housing allowance as the military does not allow a member or veteran to receive more than one.

Sarah F., a student who has been studying for her undergraduate degree online with Hawaii Pacific University using the Post-9/11 GI Bill notes that there are new regulations because “people were ‘double dipping’ with BAH (basic allowance for housing) and getting an allowance through the school.”

The GI Bill can be used during military service or afterwards. The truly savvy benefit hunter will reserve the GI Bill for later personal or dependent use and instead pursue higher education while serving full time in the military.

Completely separate from the GI Bill, the military offers tuition assistance to service members. Whether for graduate or undergraduate education, students can take online or on-campus courses from an accredited institution and get the majority of tuition paid for. Tuition assistance pays a set amount per credit-hour (currently capped at $250 per unit), and the service member is responsible for anything over and above. Many schools adjust their rates to meet the published tuition assistance rate, or at the very least, come close, minimizing the student’s payment responsibility if not covering it entirely. TA isn’t restricted to graduate and undergraduate degrees, but can also be used towards vocational training.

Since master’s degrees are encouraged and often expected for officers to advance up the ranks, tuition assistance makes paying for education quite feasible. One officer told me that he earned a technical master’s degree over the course of six years, intermittently through deployments, and only paid around $3,000 for the entire education, including books.

The services (Army, Navy, Air Force, etc.) all have their own requirements for eligibility and service due in return for tuition money, but the best part about the military’s tuition assistance and the GI Bill is that there are no restrictions on the field of study.

Noteworthy Companies with Generous Tuition Reimbursement Programs for Online Courses

Melissa Hatch

After earning her master’s in composition in Oklahoma City, Melissa moved to Honolulu, where she taught composition and advanced writing courses for Hawaii Pacific University and Honolulu Community College. Later focusing on online education, Melissa has taught online writing and research courses for community colleges as well as four-year universities. After a long stay in Hawaii, Melissa moved to Las Vegas and built a thriving real estate business, where she now resides with her family.