The 5 Keys to an Extremely Effective Employee Tuition Assistance Program (TAP)

By Beth Dumbauld

The case for offering some type of Educational Assistance Program to your employees is compelling. Tuition Assistance Programs are an essential recruiting and retention tool -- and can go a long way to towards increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of your workforce.

An investment in your employees, ultimately, is an investment in your company. But an investment in education, like any investment, costs real dollars at a time when many employee benefits are being reduced. These real dollars can be steep, particularly in a traditional educational environment, where the cost of education continues to rise. Yet, if you don’t invest in your employees’ skills and education, you risk becoming a dinosaur in your industry and your corporate culture can begin to be bogged down.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can offer an engaging educational program for your employees within the scope of your budget. With the evolution of high quality online college course providers, there are ways to mitigate tuition and fees costs and, at the same time, maximize educational benefits to employees.

How to Make Your Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) Stand Out from the Pack Without Busting Your Budget

1 – Offer One.

Almost every company offers some type of Educational Assistance Program. In our daily life, peer pressure may not be the best reason to do something. However, in a competitive business environment, not offering a benefit competitors offer can make your workplace environment appear out of touch. If you aren’t currently offering a Tuition Assistance Program, you should be.

2 - Align Company Goals and Employee Goals.

Though most companies offer some kind of educational assistance program, only 5-10% of employees use them.1 Some of the issues around non-use of benefits are time-related, for those working full time, and the requirement to pay up-front costs, even if there is reimbursement at a later date. Know what these issues are upfront to ensure you have programs which are flexible enough and don’t place undue financial stress on your employees. You will only know what the barriers are to utilizing your employee assistance program if there is a clear communication path between employees, HR and management. Make sure that the communication path is clear; there is too much money and strategic value at risk to not do so.

3 – Create a Strategic Plan Around Your Employee Education Assistance Program.

What outcomes are you looking for? Are they measurable? Once you know what the end goals of your company’s education assistance program need to be, it’s time to align the goals of your employees within that framework. Bring in HR early in the process. Give each employee the opportunity to develop a learning plan. The parameters of each employee’s plan should include options, like online college classes, that not only fill the unique needs of the employee, but also fit within the path of your company’s overall strategic plan. With increased communication between employees, HR & management, you will be able to design your program in such a way that employees are taking courses that directly influence the trajectory of your business in the ways that you want.


1 HR Magazine, Bearing Fruit, 2006, p.1
http://www.shrm.org/Publications/hrmagazine/EditorialContent/Pages/0306bolch.aspx