Just this morning, I attended a CEO-led panel discussion at the Association Forum of Chicagoland. While I knew that many associations offered tuition reimbursement, I was astounded to learn how few took advantage of this free education – only 5-6%.
Considering that 60-75% percent of associations/societies offer this benefit (according to an estimate by one of the panelists), this is a huge disparity. Why? I can only assume people are afraid they’ll be locked in to an agreement where they’ll need to stay with their current employer after graduation. This may be true, but for a free (or low-cost) degree, it might be worth it! Plus, the length of obligation may be shorter than you’re anticipating.
Though tuition reimbursement was cut from many benefit packages as a result of the economic downturn, you still may be able to get help from your company. Today’s panelists agreed that addressing the subject with your boss may be worth a shot. They noted that most employers appreciate when a staff member wants to improve their skills, and of course, it usually benefits the association as well. Depending on their budget and company support, they may be able to make an exception in order to keep a “rising star” on the team.
If going back to school is important to you, it’s in your best interests to at least explore tuition reimbursement – even if it’s not currently offered company-wide. While you’re at it, revisit other employee benefits to be sure you’re taking advantage of all that’s offered to you (I also learned that the Employee Assistance Program – EAP – is the second least-utilized benefit).