We’ve heard it over and over again– go to school, get a college degree, secure a professional job, and enjoy. Well, that’s according to a majority of parents. However, going to a college or university these days is very expensive. The cost of attendance has ballooned over the years. The average college cost is $35,720 per college student per academic year in the US. The annual growth rate is 6.8%, causing the cost to triple in two decades.
- An in-state student enrolled in a public four-year school spends $25,615 yearly.
- The average cost of out-of-state tuition is $27,437; in-state tuition is $9,580.
- A traditional student in a private college or university spends $53,949 each year, $37,200 of it solely on tuition and fees.
Going to college is undeniably costly. But why does it keep getting more and more expensive every year?
Life is much more expensive now than some 30 or 40 years ago! Because of inflation, we all spend so much more on cars, homes, clothing, and food than our grandparents and parents did at our age. But the cost of college did not keep pace with inflation, and it is rising quicker—a lot quicker!
Enrolling in college is more expensive today than it was decades ago. However, the amount one spends on college dramatically varies depending on the institution you attend. For example, a two-year community college has relatively lower tuition and fees each academic year than a four-year standard university. An out-of-state student pays more, while students from private universities are expected to shell out even more.
A recent study shows these average US university or college costs by school type:
- In-district (public two-year)- $3,770
- In-state (public four-year)- $10,560
- Out-of-state (public four-year)- $27,020
- Private (nonprofit four-year)- $37,650
Table of Contents
The Top US Companies that Pay for Your College
- Walmart and Sam’s Club Tuition Assistance
- T-Mobile Tuition Assistance
- Starbucks Tuition Assistance
- Papa John’s Tuition Assistance
- Disney Tuition Assistance
- Discover Tuition Assistance
- Chipotle Tuition Assistance
- Boeing Tuition Assistance
- Amazon Tuition Assistance
- Home Depot
- Convincing Your Employer to Pay for Your College
- Understanding Why College is Very Expensive
- How Do You Cope with the Rising College Costs?
- What is Tuition Reimbursement?
- How Company Tuition Reimbursement Works
The Top US Companies that Pay for Your College
Because of the inevitable increase in the cost of attendance in college, many corporations today make it easier for college students to get a job first before they begin their college courses.
Tuition assistance programs are not new employee benefits packages. In a recent survey on employee benefits, the Society for Human Resource Management found that 56% of US employers offer a tuition assistance program for their employees, generally in the form of cash reimbursement.
Thankfully, today’s newer version offers to shoulder up to 100% of an employee’s tuition upfront. And what is great about most of these companies is that instead of concentrating on qualified employees who wish to obtain advanced degrees, these tuition programs now target workers who have never enrolled in college in the first place. This gives many employees a chance to worry about choosing between working hard and finding time to earn a degree.
On July 27, 2021, the largest US private employer announced its commitment to invest about $1 billion in career-driven training and development in the next five years. Walmart will pay 100% of college tuition and books through its LBU (Live Better U) education program.
On August 16, 2021, the $1 per day fee was removed for associates, making all education programs shouldered by Walmart. This equates to about 1.5 million full-time and part-time Walmart and Sam’s Club associates in the US learning trade skills or earning degrees without worrying about education debt.
- All tuition costs are paid upfront at Walmart’s partner universities.
- The fields of study included in the program are business, healthcare, technology, and supply chain management.
- The program covers certificate, associate’s, or bachelor’s programs for Walmart employees.
The LBU program allows employees to earn a college degree online from six nonprofit institutions like the University of Florida, Wilmington University, and Brandman University. Employees may also earn college credits if they join some of the company’s paid training courses. This arrangement enables students to complete their degrees fast. There is also a $1,500 graduation bonus for those employees who had no prior college education before joining the program.
T-Mobile, America’s second-biggest largest network, gives its employees a chance to join its tuition assistance program. After completing at least ninety days of employment, you are qualified to enroll in courses related directly to your position or role at T-Mobile. Classes have to be approved ahead of time. T-Mobile will pay the school tuition after their qualified employees complete their courses with a C- or better grade. Employees can receive up to $5,250 (full-time) and $2,500 (part-time).
Aside from the tuition, the program also covers other costs like books, software, and required class materials. For full-time T-Mobile employees, there are five partner institutions for the program: the University of Phoenix, Kaplan University, Colorado Technical University, Capella University, and the University of Arizona Global Campus. Part-time employees can also enjoy this program, although it is only limited to the academic offerings of the University of Phoenix.
- T-Mobile tuition assistance pays 100% of tuition for full-time and part-time employees.
- There are five online institutions as options.
- The program covers both graduate and undergraduate degrees.
According to the US Department of Education, only half of the American college students who started college today can complete the degree because of incapacity and life/work barriers. Because of the excessive tuition costs, so many young people are left behind, preventing them from finishing (and even starting) an undergraduate degree. Thus, Starbucks partnered with like-minded institutions that recognize the need to address one of the toughest challenges young adults face– earning a bachelor’s degree.
- The scholarship covers all college costs for online degrees at Arizona State University.
- There are more than 100 programs you can choose from.
- You will not be required to stay at the company after completing your program.
Starbucks is one of the pioneering multi-million corporations to announce a full-tuition benefit program for their workers. In 2014, they introduced the College Achievement Plan. This program pays their employees’ tuition in full for any online bachelor’s program at Arizona State University, with programs ranging from arts and design to STEM degrees. To qualify for the program, you must have worked at least 240 hours with Starbucks. This should also be your first bachelor’s degree.
Starbucks has spent so much time looking for the best collaboration, and Arizona State University is the best choice. ASU’s values, brand, and mission perfectly match Starbucks’. ASU is the number one most innovative school in the US, according to the US News and World Report. Thus, Starbucks is proud to partner with ASU, an academic institution that recognizes the need to offer people a better opportunity for a quality higher education.
Papa John’s firmly stands by its motto, “Apply. Earn. Learn.” The company heavily promotes the company’s Dough and Degree tuition assistance program. In partnership with Purdue University Global and the University of Maryland Global Campus, Papa John’s helps employees earn graduate or undergraduate degrees. Qualified employees will no longer have to worry about where to get money for their tuition and textbooks, and they can even major in any discipline they want.
- The program is available at the University of Maryland Global Campus and Purdue University Global.
- It is open for graduate and undergraduate degrees.
- Tuition discounts (14% to 15%) are also offered for the employees’ family members living in the same household.
Papa John’s Scholarships range from $100 to $1000 and are given to students with excellent leadership skills, academic achievements, community involvement, and athletic or creative achievements. To qualify for the program, you should work at least 20 hours per week and be employed for at least three months.
In 2018, the most magical and happiest place on earth introduced its tuition assistance program called “Aspire.” The tuition assistance benefit is available for qualified employees who have worked at least ninety days– whether you are:
- A regular employee.
- Corporate worker.
- A worker from any of the hotel’s properties.
- Even a cast member in the park.
Qualified employees can enjoy 100% assistance of tuition costs for any online courses in Disney’s more than a dozen partner institutions: the University of Denver, the University of Arizona, and the University of Florida. This academic benefit will cover graduate and undergraduate degrees and certificate and trade programs.
- Full tuition coverage for graduate and undergraduate degrees.
- Qualified employees can enroll in any field of their choice.
- You are not required to stay and work at the company after graduating.
- Textbook reimbursement is available.
As of the moment, more than 11,000 Disney employees are enjoying the Aspire program, with hospitality, business, psychology, and social science among the most popular majors.
This new education assistance benefit provides all qualified US-based employees the chance to earn a bachelor’s degree online from an accredited nonprofit private or public university with no cost at all. Called The Discover College Commitment, this program covers tuition and other required fees, supplies, and books needed so you can complete your chosen online degrees at any of these three schools: Wilmington University, the University of Florida (via UF Online), and Brandman University.
- The program pays full tuition, supplies, and books for select online business and technology courses.
- The partner institutions include Brandman University, Wilmington University, and the University of Florida.
- All employees are qualified for this program as soon as they are employed.
Courses eligible in the program include a bachelor’s degree in computer science, business administration, business management, and computer and network security.
Discover also offers a partially-fund assistance program for employees who prefer to attend a non-partner institution. The annual cap for this assistance ranges from $2,500 to $10,000, depending on the degree level.
Chipotle’s Cultivate Education program was initially a tuition reimbursement program. But in 2019, the company decided to partner with Guild Education– a company that manages an organization’s education assistance benefits. Chipotle then began to offer fully-funded college degrees.
- The program will pay for all the costs of tuition upfront.
- There are more than 75 online programs available.
- The tuition assistance is reserved for bachelor’s and associate’s degrees.
At present, Chipotle pays tuition fees for more than 75 online programs in technology and business. It is scattered across nine different institutions, including Wilmington University, Purdue University Global, and Oregon State University.
An employee should be employed for at least 120 days and work fifteen hours a week to qualify for the program. Just recently, Chipotle announced that they are offering more academic programs later this year, such as supply chain management, culinary arts, and agriculture.
Boeing is one multi-billion aerospace manufacturing company that has invested more than $1.7 billion solely in tuition assistance for its employees. Called the “Learning Together” program, this tuition assistance program gives Boeing employees a chance to earn any certificate or college degree (online or in-person) in selected STEM programs without spending personal money on educational expenses, including books and entrance exams.
- The program pays 100% of the tuition costs for selected STEM Programs.
- Eligible employees can choose from more than 300 partner institutions– online or in-person.
- Educational benefits extend to all post-secondary degrees, including PhDs
Some of the prestigious institutions many employees choose include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Washington. Employees who complete their associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees while still employed at Boeing are qualified to receive Boeing stocks. Plus, those who take flight training courses through a partner institution and eventually earn a flying license are eligible to receive a special payment incentive.
For those who wish to earn an associate degree or a vocational certificate in a high-demand field like information technology, mechanics, or healthcare, Amazon is the answer. The Amazon Career Choice program is open to part-time and full-time employees, and Amazon will pay up to 100% of tuition and fees for qualified employees.
- The program is only limited to associate degrees and certificates in high-demand fields outlined by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Textbook reimbursement is available.
- Some of the fields that qualify for the program include administrative and business services, healthcare, transportation, mechanical and skilled trades, and information technology.
What’s great about this program is that Amazon has built ample educational spaces within its facilities so that employees can take both live, in-person, and virtual classes seamlessly. As of the moment, Amazon has more than 16,000 employees worldwide who have joined the program.
In April 2022, Lowe’s launched its debt-free education program that covers more than 300,000 associates. As one of the largest hardware retailers globally, Lowe’s comprehensive program gives free tuition access to employees who wish to pursue their education in the fields of technology, data analytics, and supply chain, among others.
Lowe’s has partnered with Guild, a career opportunity platform that assists employers in upskilling their employees and allowing them to grow in their professional roles. The eligible full-time and part-time associates at Lowe’s have the opportunity to choose among 50 academic programs across 23 universities. The programs are free and designed to help associates perform their jobs exceptionally across a variety of career pathways.
The tuition-assistance program at Lowe’s covers textbook expenses and course fees. They also have the chance to get one-on-one support from Guild courses.
- Lowe’s provides direct payments of up to $2,500 in tuition assistance every year.
- Additionally, Lowe’s also offers a company-funded pre-apprentice certificate program for those who wish to pursue careers in the skilled trades each year.
- Employees at Lowe’s may also want to consider taking advantage of the University Discount program, which extends to qualified dependents who are enrolled in one of Lowe’s partner schools.
Associates at Lowe’s will be able to choose among multiple options for their educational pursuits. They can earn undergraduate certificates or degrees or complete their high school education. They can also choose to enroll in English language learning or college prep programs. It is good to note that the programs are designed to fit around the schedules of working professionals, so they can expect flexible classes in the field of their choice.
Home Depot, one of the country’s biggest home improvement retailers, offers tuition assistance to its employees, including full-time and part-time associates. The company has allocated a significant amount of budget to those who want to advance their education. Understanding the difficulty of juggling personal and work obligations, Home Depot provides resources for employees to pursue career growth and advancement.
The retail company struck a partnership with Bellevue University. This higher learning institution has demonstrated its commitment to serving adult learners, which allows them to fully understand the needs of working adults who choose to go back to school. The arrangement between the two organizations involves Bellevue allowing students to defer payment until they receive the tuition assistance from Home Depot.
- Full-time associates can receive up to $6,000 per year, while part-time associates may be entitled to $3,000 per year.
- Additionally, immediate family members of eligible associates will be able to access $2,500 worth of tuition assistance annually.
- Bellevue University lets Home Depot associates transfer credits without charge.
In the past 17 years, Home Depot’s tuition assistance program has reimbursed employees more than $136 million. This program is a way for the company to attract new employees, along with access to educational coaches and internship programs.
A prominent hardware and software company, Apple has established itself as a giant in the tech industry. The company emphasizes the importance of professional growth through the establishment of Apple University. This initiative offers classes, seminars, and beyond-the-classroom tools that allow employees to fully understand the culture and organization of Apple. This is where employees get to hone their business and software skills through a variety of online classes.
Apple also gives their employees a chance to pursue lifelong learning by reimbursing them for certain educational expenses. This includes tuition at a higher learning institution. Full-time employees are eligible to avail of this tuition reimbursement program. The educational assistance program excludes interns, independent contractors, consultants, and flexible workforce employees.
- The program provides up to $5,250 every calendar year to full-time employees.
- The reimbursement may include eligible expenses such as required books, tuition, software, and other fees.
- The reimbursement may be requested after one completes the courses and receives the grades. It is important to include one’s name and Apple employee ID on the receipts.
The tuition reimbursement program at Apple aims to help employees to pursue job-related courses from accredited colleges and universities. It is important that the chosen degrees or courses are directly related to one’s current job at Apple or a related job that one aspires to pursue at the company.
A special educational assistance program is available to the US payroll employees of Chevron, one of the largest energy companies in the country. This opportunity is available to those who are eligible to receive a severance pay benefit. The educational assistance program offers reimbursement of up to 75% of the tuition cost. It also includes platform subscriptions, required books and fees, and courses and training.
The initiative is meant to help terminated employees, due to the company’s restructuring activities, prepare for other employment opportunities during their career transition. They can choose coursework that is not related to the job they had at Chevron.
- The reimbursement covers courses offered by US-based educational institutions or training providers. The latter includes Udemy, Microsoft Virtual Academy, and Salesforce.
- They can also opt for courses that are designed to develop their skills, including computer training in vocational schools.
- One must avail of this program within two years after their termination of employment.
To be reimbursed, students must make sure to receive a grade point average of C or better. Request for reimbursements can start once one has successfully completed a course.
Qualcomm has a demonstrated commitment to learning, and being a leading innovator in wireless technology. They make it a point to support their employees to learn and grow in their professional roles. Apart from providing employee training and development programs, the company also offers a tuition assistance program benefit. This allows employees to claim full reimbursement for their undergraduate or graduate programs as long as it is earned in an accredited institution.
In 2019, Qualcomm reimbursed employees for coursework completed in that year alone, amounting to $1.5 million. The program aims to help employees broaden their knowledge and stay up to date with developments in the field of technology. There are different levels of reimbursement.
- Eligible employees can enjoy up to $5,250 per year, covering tuition, books, and parking. This can be used when earning courses towards continuing education, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or certification.
- They can also earn up to $10,125 per year for tuition, books, and parking when earning a graduate or post-graduate degree.
Beyond the tuition assistance program, Qualcomm also ensures its employees have ample opportunities to learn and grow. Their initiatives include running a global engineering lecture series. This allows employees to nominate and invite faculty from accredited institutions to visit and deliver a short course or lecture at any R&D centers.
Convincing Your Employer to Pay for Your College
If you want to earn a college degree but can’t seem to shoulder the expensive cost that goes with it, one practical option is employer tuition assistance. While it may sound intimidating and scary to seek help from your boss, especially if you are asking for money, some things can help you persuade him. So how do you do that?
Know Your Value. Knowing your value in the company can help boost your confidence when you approach your boss and ask for educational assistance. Ask yourself the following:
- How long have I been working for my company?
- How long do I intend to stay?
- What part of my job do I excel in?
- What happens to the company if I leave?
Take into consideration also the financial situation of your company. While you may be aware of the general financial status of the company, you might not have the whole picture. If you think about the company this way, it’s easier for you to identify when the right time is to ask for help.
Reveal Your Ambition. Your boss should know why you are asking for help. Explain thoroughly and honestly why you want to enroll in college. Let him know about the factors that have pushed you to aim for your goal. Share your desires and talk about how studying will benefit you and the business. In most cases, employers genuinely care about their workers. Now is when you show them what their support can mean to you.
Make a Sample Agreement. A tuition assistance program should be agreed upon between you and your employer to protect you both and discuss potential issues before beginning. When you show your employer a sample of what you believe should be a part of your agreement, this can help minimize any fears and concerns that your employer may have. Ideally, the agreement should have the following:
- The required GPA
- What will happen in case you decide to stop going to class?
- How long will you stay in the company after you complete the program?
- When and how the funds are paid or reimbursed for classes
- How much tuition assistance do you need?
An employee tuition assistance program is not new. So many large companies have seen the many benefits of this program and have made better programs to take full advantage of these benefits.
Understanding Why College is Very Expensive
Obtaining a college degree is just like buying a new home. But this was not always this way. Let’s take a look at why college today is very costly.
Minimal State Funding. It is the primary cause of college costs ballooning extensively. Government funding failed to keep pace with all the underlying costs of college. That’s why the burden of paying for tertiary education now falls on families. It is particularly true after the 2008 financial crisis. After the recession, state-level funding did not rebound. From 2008 to 2021, 41 US states spent only very little for each student, spending only $1,220 per student, a 13% drop from the usual. Also, all 50 states have a 37% increase in their average tuition.
Inflated Retail Prices. According to Barnum Financial Group’s Center for College Planning certified college financial consultant John Pearson, college cost is a matter of “supply and demand.” He reiterated that a significant percentage of this group with their kids would have the same, if not better, college experience.
Also, colleges and universities understand that boomers usually coin prices with quality and know-how to market to this parent group. It’s common to see colleges creating that illusion of selectivity by making a pipeline of college applicants beyond what these schools can accept. This, coupled with ‘tuition discounting,’ colleges can set an artificially high college price and then provide scholarships (just discounts, actually) that help minimize the price.
Higher Enrollment. Although the cost of attendance on paper is more expensive than what you pay, this doesn’t mean that families do not overextend themselves, even with financial aid and scholarships. Plus, in the past two decades or so, the net cost of college has increased to 63% at public four-year institutions.
Another reason is that college enrollees have steadily increased since the 50s, especially when the federal government made college more affordable for average citizens and military veterans. Because of the increase in enrollment, less money is available per student, according to Student Loan Hero loan counselor and expert Andrew Pentis. This resulted in fewer aids in institutions, and that’s why colleges had to increase their rates to support the number of students enrolling.
More College Services. Since colleges get less funding, they are compelled to operate like businesses to stay afloat. Schools compete against other schools for the most qualified and affluent students.
To do this, many colleges provide top-tier services and amenities like palatial dorms, the latest athletic equipment, restaurant-quality food options, and so much more. Experts say that for schools to afford these upgrades, they have to increase their revenue by increasing their prices.
How Do You Cope with the Rising College Costs?
It’s essential to be realistic about what you and your family can afford for college. Relying heavily on debt can set you back financially for decades, especially if you take student loans. How can you avoid overpaying for college, then?
Plan Early. Especially for many parents, they fail to start paying attention to the cost of college until later, when their child already has in mind the college he wants to attend. To guarantee that college doesn’t become a financial burden, it’s crucial for both the student and parents to plan college early on actively. When choosing the right college, set realistic goals. Go for the ones that you can reasonably afford, and from there, start your college saving as soon as you can.
Use Tax-Advantaged Accounts. Because of the rapid increase in college tuition, for parents, traditionally saving money will not multiply by the time their child reaches college. Try putting your money into a state-sponsored 529 plan. It will allow you to invest money for college expenses, free of income tax.
Go to a Community College First. It is the most practical way to save on college costs. If you go to a community college and live at home within those two years, you can potentially halve your total college costs. By the time you have completed your general education and already have a better understanding of what field you want to study, you can transfer to your chosen four-year school and go on with your junior and senior years.
Minimize your debt. Once you choose the school that will fit your budget, make sure you exhaust all financing options available before you consider getting student loans or securing income share agreements. Tap your current savings accounts, and apply for scholarships, grants, and more.
Look for companies that will help you with your tuition. It is another practical way to help pay for your college. Nowadays, companies (big and small) offer tuition reimbursements. Several companies can help you pay for college thru tuition assistance programs (TAPs), and others offer tuition reimbursement as an employee benefit.
What is Tuition Reimbursement?
Tuition reimbursement is a type of employee benefit, just like paid time off, 401K, or healthcare. This is basically where the company will ‘pay back’ or ‘reimburse qualified employees a specific amount towards the cost of their tuition.
However, tuition reimbursement does not cover all college costs; thus, a more suitable term for this is tuition assistance. This assistance is also not part of the employee’s average salary. Instead, many companies set aside funding for this program to help their employees pay for the high cost of college.
While there is no limit to the educational benefit you can receive, be informed that currently, the IRS will require you to pay taxes if the amount you receive is over $5,250. Your employer is also required to list this assistance as part of your regular income unless the amount involved is less than $5,250. That is why most employers offer only up to $5,250 of educational benefits as the maximum payout.
How Company Tuition Reimbursement Works
Every organization’s tuition reimbursement program varies and generally reflects its size, human resource policies, and the type of industry it belongs to. Typically, the employee will pay upfront for their college tuition, and after that, the employer reimburses the full or partial amounts after completing your class.
Many smaller companies offer to pay for college fees related to your current job. For example, if you work in finance, your company will pay only for the college subjects required to earn your CFA certification.
On the other hand, some more prominent companies can pay your college fee in full. Companies offering this program will pay for a full four-year graduate or undergraduate degree tuition. However, be wary about programs that companies will pay upfront because, in most cases, they come with some fine print. For example, if you quit or fail your course, your benefit may be converted into a loan that you will repay.