Years ago I had a critical choice to make. I could take out student loans, crippling my future self, saying “hey, you can take care of this later”, or, find a way to fund college creatively. Man, am I glad I didn’t take the loans.
My parents were not in the financial position to help pay for my education, neither was I. That put me in the same position as millions of others who needed to figure it out on their own. I was tempted for a time to go ahead and join my friends, enjoying a more leisurely time obtaining a bachelors degree and having a “traditional” college experience. But I knew that I would regret not pursuing my financial goals in the future.
Here’s how I decided to do it.
There are literally thousands of companies in this world that offer tuition reimbursement programs. If the company is big enough, there are usually options for what degree is available. For instance, a friend of mine works for a credit collection agency that employs thousands of people without college degrees. He could, if he chose to, take advantage of the program and they would reimburse him for 100% of his tuition, fees, and books provided he receive grades that are reasonable (C+). I took a position with a company at a young age that had on of these programs. I received 100% of the money I spent on my education back from my employer for all expenses if I received grades no lower than a C. My company employs roughly 15,000 people globally, and most of them have this option as well. There seems to be an opinion that these programs are only available if someone is employed at a company that would already require a degree. This is simply not true. My friend from above, he is without a degree.
Work at McDonalds? Great! McDonalds offers scholarships, tuition reimbursement, and advising for part time and full time employees at any level. The company’s reimbursement is limited if you are not in any kind of management position (currently $700 per year in tuition). But even in that instance, a combination of grants, spreading the time in which the degree is earned, and taking classes at a community college, the degree can be mostly paid for. In any kind of management capacity, the company offers a whopping $5,250 per year. That is enough to pay for a full year at even the most expensive community colleges in the country. It is just one example of thousands of companies that would be willing to foot the bill. Even the easiest jobs to get can pay a lot towards our goals if they are taken advantage of. McDonalds Tuition Reimbursement.
Here is what my company required of me:
- 1 year of employment after the degree was complete
- 1 year of employment prior to entering into the program
- Grades of C or higher
- A degree that my manager agreed would align with some future position within the company (which is basically anything but a medical degree).
Here is what I got:
- A bachelors degree
- The peace of mind in knowing I was not racking up thousands in student debt.
- Roughly $45,000 in 5 years
Why would companies do this?
Because it pays to have educated employees, it helps their employee retention (which is extremely valuable for them), and there are Federal tax breaks for them when they offer the programs.
What’s the catch?
In order to pull it off, you need to find an employer that will be willing to pay for it number one. Secondly, you have to make sure that the degree you are pursuing is at least slightly relevant to the company, though, most business degrees can be made to be at least somewhat applicable on paper. And lastly, $5,250 is currently tax free. This means that if you ask for more than that number from your employer, the amount exceeding that number will be taxed, but you still receive the money, just less of it.
There are thousands of companies out there waiting, wanting, to pay for your education! If you haven’t yet gotten the degree you need to pursue your career or develop it further, take advantage of it.