Tuition reimbursement can help make getting your education a little easier financially. Many employers offer this option to employees looking to increase their knowledge or earn degrees in a specific field. However, tuition reimbursement comes with some disadvantages, too. If you're considering tuition reimbursement, you should read the fine print to be sure you understand all the details before you accept this generous offer.
Money up Front
To get reimbursed, you first have to pay with your own money. If you pay as you go, this can be a hefty burden to your budget. Whether you use your savings, student loans or personal loans, you often have to spend your own money before getting reimbursed.
Many times if a company agrees to give you reimbursement for your tuition, you must sign a contract guaranteeing your continued employment with the company for a certain period of time. You are bound by the contract. If you choose to terminate your employment before the contract is up, you will likely have to pay the company back. There may also be additional fees and penalties tacked onto the amount of the reimbursement in this situation.
Students can use credit cards or loans to pay their tuition, but loans and credit cards charge interest on the money you use. Some reimbursement programs may only pay the total of the loan, not any additional interest or fees associated with your loan.
You are responsible for tracking your tuition expenses. You must keep all paperwork and receipts and turn them in on the required date or time frame. If you neglect to keep your receipts or turn them in as scheduled, it's likely you will not receive the tuition reimbursement money.
Read the small print and ask questions to clarify any points on your reimbursement package. Some tuition reimbursement programs only reimburse classes and courses approved by the company, while others only pay for courses pertinent to your industry. Many general courses may not qualify for reimbursement, and many courses within your major may not be covered, either.
Tuition reimbursement may not include the costs of your books, study guides or other out-of-pocket expenses related to furthering your education. Before you register for classes, be sure you know exactly how much your education will cost you personally. Books, laptops and other class necessities can cost quite a bit, and additional fees add up quickly. Though basic tuition fees are typically more than your add-on expenses, you should know how much your tuition reimbursement actually covers.
Jennifer Erchul has been a freelance writer since 2002. Writing primarily about family and travel, her work has appeared in the "Idaho State Journal," "Portnuef Valley Parents Magazine" and "Western Flyfisher." She writes for numerous websites and is a published author. Erchul studied English and psychology at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.