Each year, more and more companies offer to defray or cover the cost of a college education for their employees. Hourly workers, particularly those planning to work while attending school anyway, should take note.
College Can Be Cheaper Than You Think
In June, 2014, Starbucks announced a tuition reimbursement program, called the College Achievement Plan, that could significantly defray the cost to its employees of obtaining a four-year degree. Starbucks employees who enroll in Arizona State University’s online program are eligible for assistance at various levels.
To qualify, the student must be enrolled in ASU’s online program full time and continue to work 20 hours per week at Starbucks. Employees at the freshman and sophomore levels will receive a scholarship from ASU that covers up to $6,500 for two years, full time (a discount of approximately 22% off the full tuition price). The remaining costs are the student’s responsibility, to be paid out of pocket or with other types of financial aid, including grants, scholarships, family contributions and loans.
To encourage students to stick with it and finish their degree, Starbucks ups the ante in the junior and senior years to 100%. The first 44% is paid by ASU in the form of a scholarship, and the remainder is covered by a loan that Starbucks pays off after the semester is completed. (Students who drop out or stop working for Starbucks mid-semester are responsible for repaying the loan.) It’s like a retroactive scholarship for students who follow through.
With a price tag of about $15,000 per year, the total cost for a Starbucks employee to achieve an undergraduate degree is about $23,000. There is no obligation to continue Starbucks employment after the degree is achieved.
If you’re in Seattle, the Starbucks program might sound familiar. The owners of Dick’s Drive-In (a chain of six restaurants) have offered a similar program for decades. After six months on the job, any employee who maintains 20 hours per week can study any subject at any school and receive up to $3,000 per year for the first two years and $8,000 per year for the last two.
Finding An Employer That Pays For College
Many city, state and federal government employees have access to this benefit, though national and global companies are more likely to offer it. Dick’s Drive-In is evidence that this is not always the case, however. Millions of smaller employers across the company offer tuition assistance of some sort:
- BTS: A Baltimore company with fewer than 100 employees, offers tuition reimbursement as part of an extremely generous benefits package.
- IMRE: A Maryland marketing firm, offers a similar package
- Business Insider: Lists a few other small companies that you’ve probably never heard of that offer outstanding tuition assistance benefits.
No matter the industry, it’s never a bad idea to ask about it, and even to encourage the employer to implement the benefit if it doesn’t exist yet.
Large Companies That Pay For College
Starbucks and Dick’s are not alone. Many other companies offer significant tuition reimbursement benefits, some only for job-related studies but others for any subject. An employer gets a direct tax write-off for tuition reimbursement of up to $5,250 per year per employee, so you’ll see that number frequently.
- UPS pays up to $20,000, and eligible employees include full- and part-time workers
- Home Depot pays up to $5,000 per year for full-time employees
- Big defense contractors like Boeing, Raytheon, SAIC, and ManTech all offer tuition assistance to employees pursuing an approved, job-related course of study at any school
- Bank of America pays up to $5,250 for job-related coursework
- Qualcomm reimburses up to $5,250 per year toward undergraduate tuition, books and parking, and up to $10,125 per year for graduate and post-graduate school expenses
- Walgreens pays up to $2,500 per year for pharmacy school
- Like Starbucks, many large employers, including McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, ConAgra, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Wal-Mart and Costco partner with online degree programs like College for America and American Public University
- AT&T pays up to $20,000 for undergraduate coursework and up to $25,000 for graduate studies
- Smucker’s reimburses up to 100% of tuition expenses, with no limit
Even a worker with little experience or few professional skills, for whom flipping burgers or answering phones will surely be an inevitable part of undergraduate life, can turn a mundane hourly job into a ticket to college. Professionals pursuing education in their chosen field will find even more avenues to free advanced education.
The trick is to get a foot in the right door. Research what benefits might come before applying for any job. The list of companies that offer some kind of tuition assistance is quite long, and cannot be all-inclusive here (or anywhere), but below are a few more national companies that offer tuition assistance:
|Gap||Intel||John Deere||McAfee||Proctor & Gamble||Publix|
|Salesforce||Staples||Taco Bell||Target||Verizon||Wells Fargo||Yahoo|