Author: Daniel B. Kline | May 18, 2018
The high cost of college
College has gotten frightfully expensive, placing a four-year degree out of reach for many people unless they take on massive amounts of debt. In fact, in-state tuition at a public college costs $20,770 for tuition, room and board, and fees, while those same things cost $35,260 at the average private, nonprofit college, according to the College Board.
That makes tuition assistance a valuable perk that can help companies attract workers in a challenging job market. It's also a way some businesses have created a path toward advancement so workers can enter at the ground level, learn their way around the company while pursuing a degree, and then move into a higher-level job upon graduating.
UPS offers what it calls "Earn & Learn." Part-time and full-time UPS employees can earn $5,250 per calendar year in tuition assistance, with a lifetime maximum of $25,000.
"Eligibility begins the day you're hired and benefits are prorated accordingly in case you're hired mid-semester," according to the company's website.
Taco Bell, a Yum! Brands company, has launched a partnership with Guild Education to offer employees personalized college advisors, as well as discounts at 80 online universities offering everything from high school completion to data science certificates to master's degrees. The advisors will offer general support, helping employees fill out financial aid forms, select the right school, and more.
In addition, the restaurant chain, through its partners, will offer college credit for on-the-job restaurant training. Corporate employees and workers at participating franchises will also be eligible for up to $5,250 in tuition assistance per calendar year, which is paid up front so the employees have no out-of-pocket expenses.
McDonald's plans to allocate $150 million over five years to its global Archways to Opportunity education program. As part of that investment, the chain is lowering the eligibility requirements from nine months to 90 days and has dropped weekly shift minimums from 20 hours to 15 hours. That will make 400,000 U.S. restaurant employees eligible for the program, according to a press release.
The program provides eligible U.S. employees an
opportunity to earn a high school diploma, receive up-front college
tuition assistance, access free education advising services, and learn English as a second language. Crew members (non-managers) can receive $2,500 a year, while managers get $3,000.
The money can be used at a community college, four-year university, or a trade school. There is no lifetime cap on how much a person can receive.
Publix, a privately held grocery chain, offers tuition assistance for employees who work an average of at least 10 hours a week and have been with the company for six continuous months. The chain uses a reimbursement system offering $3,200 per year for college and university programs (with a $12,800 maximum) and $1,700 each year for trade schools, two-year schools, and other occupational training programs (with a $3,400 cap).
FedEx offers some tuition assistance and reimbursement. Unlike many of the other companies on this list, however, the company does not explain how much it offers or what the terms are on any public web pages. Instead, it refers employees to the human resources department or the employee intranet.
Various media reports list the benefit at between $1,500 and $2,500 depending upon your position and whether you work full- or part-time. The actual assistance number offered may vary, and all workers may not be eligible.
The home improvement warehouse offers tuition assistance after 90 days of employment. Salaried Home Depot workers can receive up to $5,000 per year, while full-time hourly workers are eligible for $3,000, and part-time hourly workers qualify for up to $1,500 annually. The program covers colleges, technical schools, and select IT certification programs.
Another company that does not make its tuition reimbursement plan public, AT&T nonetheless offers one. How much you qualify for can vary greatly depending upon your employment status and whether you are a member of a union. For example, full-time, non-management employees in its wireline union in the Southeast can receive up to $5,250 in reimbursement for approved programs each year. Part-time workers working more than 20 hours can receive $3,937.50, while those working less than 20 hours can qualify for up to $2,625.
Chipotle offers a broad tuition assistance program in which employees can qualify for up to $5,250 in annual tuition assistance. It also offers up to $15,400 in college credit for on-the-job training, according to a company web page.
"With each promotion you earn at Chipotle, you’ll score more credit hours towards your degree. Get promoted to General Manager? Congrats! You’ve earned up to 44 credits -- that’s over a third of your degree -- without ever stepping foot inside a classroom," the company wrote.
Starbucks has a unique way to help its employees graduate from college. The company has a collaboration with Arizona State University (ASU) to offer full- and part-time eligible U.S. workers tuition reimbursement to earn an online degree from ASU. The company offers counseling and support for employees who pay the up-front cost for classes, which are reimbursed by Starbucks.
UnitedHeath Group offers tuition assistance for both full- and part-time workers. Employees who work at least 20 hours per week can earn up to $5,250 per calendar year for job-related coursework in accredited programs.
Lowe's offers up to $2,500 in tuition reimbursement to full-time employees who have been with the company for at least one year. The company covers any undergraduate program and graduate programs if the degree will help them with their current position or help them advance at the home improvement retailer.
Another company that keeps its benefits program behind a password check so that only employees can see it, Apple does offer tuition reimbursement, according to employee reports on Glassdoor.com. The numbers vary, but those unverified anonymous reports place the amount at between $5,000 and $5,250.
Bank of America
Bank of America reimburses eligible employees up to $5,250 for job-related courses or to fulfill a job-related degree program. The company does not specify eligibility requirements on its website.
Best Buy offers up to $5,000 in annual tuition reimbursement, according to anonymous employee reports on Glassdoor.com. The company acknowledges that it offers tuition reimbursement on its website but does not specify the amount or the terms.
BP has a generous tuition reimbursement program where the company will pay for up to 90% of eligible expenses toward earning a degree. This includes both college and vocational programs.
"To receive reimbursement, you must obtain approval before registering for the course, and you must complete it with a passing grade," according to the company's benefits web page.
Only full-time employees are eligible and courses will be approved only if they help the employee's development within the company.
Procter & Gamble
One of the more generous funders of employees' higher education, Procter & Gamble "allows employees
to seek continuing education courses or programs that are related to
their current or potential next assignment within the company," according to a company web page. P&G will reimburse 80% of tuition and qualifying fees, with
a lifetime cap of $40,000 on total reimbursements.
Wells Fargo offers employees up to $5,000 annually for eligible tuition expenses. The company does not spell out eligibility requirements on its public-facing website.
Walmart has partnered with the American Public University System (APUS) for what it calls its "Lifelong Learning Program." Eligible employees and their family members receive a 15% grant for APUS' online programs.
JM Smucker offers "up to 100% reimbursement of tuition costs for Company-approved college courses," according to a company web page. It does not explain what courses are covered and what the eligibility requirements are.
Jetblue offers an online degree program where it covers the cost for employees to earn a degree. The company also provides consulting services designed to help workers navigate the program.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles agreed as part of its deal with United Auto Workers to "offers employees help with tuition and fees for job-related, degree-seeking courses at nationally and regionally accredited educational institutions," according to U.S. News & World Report. Courses must be evaluated by designated tuition assistance plan administrators, and the benefit is capped at no more than $5,000 annually.
Walt Disney has separate tuition reimbursement programs for hourly and salaried workers. It does not publicly share details of how either program works. The company had previously only offered reimbursement for salaried workers, but it expanded its program to nearly 90,000 hourly workers in 2018 after the Republican tax cut was passed, which CEO Robert Iger cited when announcing the new program.
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield offers employees a chance to earn a free degree from South New Hampshire University through its online program. Employees who work at least 20 hours a week who have worked for the company for at least six months are eligible to have their tuition reimbursed.
Another company that's publicly vague about its tuition assistance plan, Boeing offers what it calls its "Learning Together Program." The company describes the benefit on its public-facing web page as follows:
"The pursuit of learning is fundamental to the company's position as a global leader in aerospace. Via the Learning Together Program, Boeing funds employees’ college tuition, books and fees for degree and professional certificate programs and even individual courses at high-quality schools."
T-Mobile has made its name by offering its customers perks and removing pain points. It's trying to do the same for employees with its tuition assistance program.
The company will pay for classes that directly relate to an employee's job or another role at T-Mobile after 90 days of employment. Classes must be approved in advance. Full-time employees are eligible for up to $5,250 a year, while part-time workers can get $2,500. T-Mobile also partners "with several schools that offer full tuition," according to its website.
At Fidelity, "Full-time employees with at least six months of service may apply for tuition reimbursement for up to 90% of of certain costs, up to $10,000 per year," according to Estudentloan.com. Managers must approve the classes in advance, and they must be work-related.
Corporate employees of Dunkin' Brands, the parent company of Dunkin' Donuts, are eligible for up to $5,000 in annual tuition reimbursement after six months of service. The program is limited to "employees who complete approved undergraduate or graduate level courses under the program's eligibility guidelines," according to the company's website.
Oracle offers tuition reimbursement to allow employees to "continue education in subjects related to work and also broaden current knowledge and
skills in preparation of new responsibilities." It offers all full-time employees up to $5,250 per year in tuition reimbursement for any classes in which they receive at least a B-.
Microsoft's public-facing web pages merely acknowledges that the company offers tuition assistance. Anonymous employees have reported to Glassdoor.com, however, that the company offers $5,250 for eligible undergraduate classes and even more for graduate programs.
Charter Communications allows its employees to apply for tuition assistance for classes designed to help them maintain or improve their ability to perform their current job, according to its 2016 employee handbook. Classes must be "for traditional forms of education such as undergraduate and graduate courses offered by accredited colleges or universities."
Full-time employees are eligible to apply after 90 days. A manager must sign off to approve any classes.
Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Daniel B. Kline owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Starbucks, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Oracle and has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple, short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple, short May 2018 $175 calls on Home Depot, long January 2020 $110 calls on Home Depot, short June 2018 $52 calls on Oracle, and long January 2020 $30 calls on Oracle. The Motley Fool recommends Dunkin' Brands Group, FedEx, Home Depot, JetBlue Airways, Lowe's, T-Mobile US, and UnitedHealth Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.