According to a survey by Citigroup and Seventeen magazine, nearly four out of five U.S. students work while in school. That includes students in high schools, community colleges, online institutions, and four-year colleges and universities.
The average working student logs 19 hours a week during the academic year, the study found.
Many students work in order to have spending money, not necessarily to cover upfront school expenses like tuition.
In fact, the Citigroup study found that even after working nearly 20 hours a week, only a fraction of employed students paid their own tuition: 41% of students indicated that they rely on financial aid; 22% of students said their parents pay; only 18% reported that they pay their own way; and 16% said they had scholarships to cover tuition.
If you are among those students who work part-time, or even full time, you may have a ready option to cut your tuition expense: simply ask your employer to pay it or to reimburse you for this cost.
New or prospective employees can inquire about this benefit during the interview and salary negotiation process. Just be sure to time your inquiry appropriately by only asking about this perk after you’ve been offered a job.
Current employees can ask a boss about tuition assistance during annual reviews, performance appraisals or even during benefits season. If those opportunities have passed, simply address the topic during a one-on-one meeting you schedule with a supervisor.
It can’t hurt to make inquiries as well with a human resources staffer at work, since that individual is likely to know about educational benefits and other workplace perks your employer provides.
You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that other employees – at least those savvy enough to request tuition aid – are already getting help from your company or organization.
Employers Help Full-Time and Part-Time Workers
The Compdata Surveys Benefits USA survey of 4,500 companies found that 76% of firms in America offer tuition reimbursement to some employees.
Additionally, 57% of businesses now offer reimbursement to all employees. That’s up dramatically from the 35% of companies that offered this benefit to all workers back in 2009.
The good news about this growing trend is that more people, even part-time workers, can secure tuition help.
Employer subsidies for tuition vary by industry, but reimbursements often fall within the $3,000 to $5,000 range annually. Some employers, though, are far more generous with tuition assistance. Compdata says that 25% of companies place no limit at all on the amount that an employee can be reimbursed for tuition.
In today’s competitive marketplace, employers offer tuition assistance as a way to attract employees, reward them, and retain top talent. So don’t be afraid to inquire of your boss or human resources specialist about this potential company perk.
When you do seek more information, be sure to ask about any tuition reimbursement limits, as well as minimum grade or post-reimbursement work requirements that your company may impose.
Work in a High-Need Field Where the College Pays Your Tuition
There’s another way to also get your tuition paid: by having a college or university foot the bill.
It takes employees of all kinds to work in a variety of jobs that improve local communities and the wellbeing of residents who live there.
Depending on your college major and intended career path, you may be able to work in an area that has a shortage of needed professionals and work specialists.
These areas are known as “high need fields” and colleges will often pay you to study and work in these areas because they know you’ll ultimately be helping society at large.
For example, in my book, College Secrets, I highlighted the University of Portland, which has a special nursing initiative called the Providence Scholars Program, under which the school will pay most of your tuition for two years if you agree to work in certain areas after you graduate from college.
The tuition aid comes partially from the university, but mostly from Oregon Providence Health & Services, which has partnered with the school for this effort.
Schools aren’t the only entities that offer paid tuition for those entering high-need fields. Similar opportunities exist via national groups such as Teach for America, the National Institutes of Health, and the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program.
So if you plan on having a career in health, medicine, education or other areas where there’s a shortage of trained professionals, do look into campus-based or organizational programs that will offer to pay your tuition in whole or in part.
It’s a smart way to get help paying for college and it reduces the likelihood of you needing student loans.