Tuition: Using Other People’s Money

We often think of employer benefits extending to adults, but did you know your teen may qualify for tuition benefits that will pay their college tuition?

We talk a lot about reduced or free dual enrollment tuition. Depending on the college and your geography, these programs may be funded by federal grants, state grants, tax dollars, alumni donors, endowments, or even business and industry. There is a LOT of data that identifies “financial barriers” as a reason young people don’t finish a credential or degree, but there is MORE data that says when a student earns college credit in high school, that they are more likely to finish….. So we’re seeing a lot of push to provide access to college at no cost to the student, and a lot of money is being used to fund these programs.

Something we don’t talk a lot about here, are the thousands of employers will will pay, in full or in part, the tuition of their employees. I very rarely read about employer benefits when teens are taught how to fund college. Unfortunately, beyond scholarships, the default suggestion to young people is often to just borrow it. This misses a tremendous opportunity to tap into a huge benefit that may allow your teen to graduate from college debt free.

It’s worth pointing out that there are actually 2 ways you can become eligible, so think about both as you consider this option.

(1) You, as the parent, have access to benefits for your dependent. This is often the case with college and university employees, but be sure to ask your human resources office, because we’re seeing more and more benefits that include our dependents!

(2) Your teen, as the employee. As in cases like the Starbucks Achievement Plan, even teens who work part time get 100% full tuition paid for. There are scholarships and partial payment programs at tens of thousands of companies- many of which can be used by teens!

Education Benefits Survey

The following stats were pulled from the annual International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, Education Benefits Survey. (paid membership required for access- data is pulled from their public summary page)

  • 92 percent of U.S. organizations offer some sort of educational benefit.
  • 57 percent have had this benefit in place for longer than 6 years.
  • 21 percent have had this benefit in place for longer than 20 years.
  • 69 percent hope they will increase employee retention through the benefit.
  • 89 percent offer the benefit to attract talent.
  • 23 percent offer the benefit to enhance skill set of employees.

HS4CC Pro-Tips to Stretch Education Benefits

It is typical for a company to cap tuition assistance at $5,250 per year because of the taxation rules. If you’re a full time student (30 credits), that will cover $175 per credit of your tuition. If you’re a part time student (15 credits), that will cover $350 per credit of your tuition.

Stretch benefit dollars by saving the for the classes you can’t complete through CLEP. CLEP credit covers lower level (100 and 200) credits, usually general education or business, and are completely free when you use a voucher from Modern States. For every class you can CLEP, that frees up your tuition benefit for a class you can’t.

Student loan forgiveness is a very rare benefit (only about 4% of companies have this type of program) and the government program requires no less than 10 years of service to qualify. It is HARD to get loan forgiveness, but relatively easy to find a company that pays up front!

Distance learning isn’t cheaper than attending on campus, but when you attend on campus you may have to live in student housing or pay for meals. If you’re trying to stretch your budget, complete the majority of your program as a distance learner or through a low-cost community college, and then transfer to the university to finish the degree in person.

Large corporations often allow you to relocate and continue using your benefits if you keep working! This is a great option when you work for companies like Target, Starbucks, Walmart, etc.

It’s wise to email the human resources department for any potential future employer. Ask very clearly about education benefits for future employees, and the rules of eligibility. Knowing your options is half the battle!


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

2 thoughts on “Tuition: Using Other People’s Money

  1. Not understanding the full-time student requiring 30 credit hours and part-time requiring 15credit hours? Our local community college considers a 12 hour credit load as full-time.

    1. YES! Excellent question. Colleges/financial aid will consider you part time at 12 credits, but in order to get the full Pell benefits, you’ll have to take 12-12-6 which includes a summer session. If you take just fall and spring, you can get the full part time benefits by attending 15-15-0. Hope that helps!

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