Finding qualified employees for critical positions is a primary concern for many companies. A 2014 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 50% of firms had difficulty recruiting during the previous year.

A lack of candidates with the necessary technical skills was cited as one of the main reasons for this hiring challenge.

Sharpening the skills of current employees and attracting new talent are among the motivators for the 83% of U.S. organizations that offer tuition reimbursement or other forms of educational assistance, according to a 2015 survey by the nonprofit International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

In return for their investment, companies can retain talented employees, attract new workers and boost innovation, the survey found.

In recent years, the growing availability of online learning options, including certificate and degree programs offered by regionally accredited universities, has given working adults expanded opportunities to attain new skills and credentials.

So what if you want to go back to school to position yourself for a promotion? Let’s take a look at how you might convince your boss that tuition reimbursement can positively impact your career – and the company as a whole.

How to Build a Case for Continuing Your Education

Research

Before you speak with your manager, evaluate your company’s current stance on professional development and tuition reimbursement. Is an education policy mentioned in the employee handbook, HR materials or intranet? Do you know any coworkers who have continued their education? If so, talk to them about how they received company support. Checking whether or not your company can qualify for tax deductions for reimbursing educational costs can help you make your case.

Make a Pitch to Your Employer

Be sure to include the benefits of continuing your education, such as:

  • Ability to take on new projects
  • Potential for promotion/advancement
  • Expanded professional contacts
  • New skills, ideas and approaches
  • Enhanced soft skills, including leadership, communication and strategy

Other points to emphasize include:

  • Tax deductions the company may get for tuition reimbursement. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers tax breaks for eligible employers that provide qualified educational assistance.
  • Your commitment to the company. Continuing your education on the company dollar is a strong mutual investment, and can help you demonstrate your loyalty and how serious you are about your role and growth at the company.
  • Time management. Include how you will balance school, work and family commitments. By providing more flexibility, online programs may be an excellent option for employees who must keep working while going to school.
  • Employee retention. Investing in current employees may be cheaper than hiring new ones, considering the costs of additional recruitment, training, salary, benefits, etc.
  • Enhanced reputation. Tuition reimbursement is an attractive perk to offer potential hires. It shows that a company values its employees, which could help attract new talent.

Propose Different Schools

Instead of providing only one choice to your employer, research your options and propose universities or colleges at different pricing levels. A side-by-side comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of each, including the school’s accolades and accreditation, can provide your employer with enough information to consider your proposal.

Discuss the Terms

Deciding on the terms of tuition reimbursement is essential once the employer has agreed to the general idea. Some items to consider include:

  • How will tuition be paid? Some companies pay the school directly; others will reimburse you.
  • What academic standards must be maintained? Depending on the company, you may have to maintain a particular grade average to qualify for reimbursement.
  • Does the company require a time commitment? Some companies want employees to stay with them for a specified time after completing their degree or certification. If you break this loyalty contract, you may be responsible for paying the tuition. Negotiating these terms is important before signing any contract.
  • What happens if you stop taking classes? It’s imperative that you know in advance what will happen if you can’t complete your program of study because of a health issue, family emergency or other extenuating circumstance.

Be Persistent

If your employer rejects your request for educational assistance, be understanding and set up a time to circle back on the issue. Your next evaluation might be a good time to bring up the potential benefits of advancing your education.

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