by E. Faith Ivery, Ed.D
Today, more than ever, a college degree is an important credential. Experts predict that three fourths of all new jobs will require a bachelor’s degree. Lifelong learning is a necessity, not a luxury. But, how do you pay for the ever increasing tuition costs?
One great way to get free college credit is to take advantage of Corporate Tuition Assistance Plan (TAP) benefits. Most all Fortune 1000 level companies offer some type of TAP benefit. These programs are administered through Human Resource or Benefits departments. They range in offerings, depending upon the corporations philosophy or need for college learning to increase their productivity. After all, it’s a great opportunity for employees, but the bottom-line to any benefit plan is to increase profits for the organization. A study conducted by Motorola showed that for every $1 invested in learning (education and/or training), about $10 came back in productivity for the corporation. It’s a very fair deal both for the employee and the corporation.
About half of all major corporations provide 100% pre-pay, or reimbursement programs for college tuition. Other companies put a “cap”, or ceiling on the total amount for annual eligibility. However, those funds are still useful as they range from $5K – $8K. Many college degrees can cost $20K -$40K+. Usually, TAP programs also include the costs for books, which easily can costs hundreds of dollars each term. Graduate degrees (MBAs) are often more costly!
National research shows that only about 10% of corporate employees actually use the TAP benefit when provided. Why is this? Well, it takes a lot of commitment to go back to school. It’s often new territory for adults. Instead of being the expert, you become a novice. College learning involves classroom time as well as time for study, test preparation, and writing assignments. It does cut into your already scare free-time. Still the gains are well worth it. Research shows that a college degree can increase salaries by 20%+, and can open doors for promotion and job flexibility.
Here are some tips to consider when using TAP funds:
1. Get an educational plan before going to college. There are over three thousand colleges in the United States. Many have specialized programs for adults. Hundreds offer credit for OTJ training, military training, hobbies, sports, transfer credit and testing for college credit – most any learning that is defined in a college catalog list of courses. Knowing about all your resources, and selecting the “best-fit” options often decreases your years in school.
2. College representatives are salespeople. College admission counselors are recruiters – which is a nice term for salespersons. They can only represent their college interests when meeting with potential students. It’s important to do research on many colleges – or, better yet, find third-party professionals who have answers to all your questions about options, and college programs fit to your needs.
3. Be brave. Remember, you are not alone. About 7.5 million adults attend college each year. That’s about 50 percent of all college enrollments. Adults usually make better grades too. Adults realize the need for learning, and are dedicated students.
E. Faith Ivery Ed.D is President of Educational Advisory Services, Inc., and has worked nationally with adult learners in industry and higher education for over 18 years.