The Hidden Benefit of Going Back to School

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — While many can't wait to get out of college when they're in their mid 20s, many now are hoping to get back in to further their careers when they enter the workforce.

The only problem can be paying for it.

However, more and more companies and corporations are seeing the benefit of trying to send employees back to school to further their education — while also fulfilling their needs. The most recent update last summer to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education showed a total of 14.5% of graduate students received financial aid from their employer.

"Companies that have this plan generally have good interest from their employees in it," said Jay Titus, director of academic services for EdAssist, a provider of tuition assistance management services. "However, the motivation is always different depending on the employee."

Federal law allows companies to provide employees with up to $5,250 in tax-free benefits each year to cover undergraduate or graduate courses. Employees do not even have to qualify for the money. On average, companies that participate in such programs offer around $5,000 per employee, although amounts vary — especially depending if it is for an undergraduate or graduate degree.

Titus said most employees who take advantage of the benefit do so for a variety of reasons including:

  • they want to fulfill their degree
  • they are seeking a new job, possibly at a new company
  • they are seeking a promotion at the company where they currently are employed

According to a survey conducted by Bersin & Associates in late 2012, 71% of U.S. organizations offer tuition assistance to their employees. The study also found, contrary to popular belief, the majority of employees who participate in a tuition assistance program did not leave their company in search of a better job. Actually, companies participating in such a program said it provided a "high value," and 92% said their participants were likely to stay with the organization.