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Getting Your Boss to Pay for an Online Degree

Jun 18, 2007 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Many adult learners pursue online degrees to advance their careers and earn better salaries.  But if you’re already employed, should you have to pay for your online degree?  In many cases, companies are happy to pay for their employees to further their education. 

But not every company has a program in place for tuition reimbursement for online degrees.  This doesn’t mean you should give up, though.  It may just mean no other employee has asked about it.  Here are a few tips for talking to your boss about tuition reimbursement.

The benefits: Why this is a good deal for your company

It can be intimidating to ask your boss for such a big favor.  But you may not realize that by going back to school, you’re actually doing your company a favor as well.  Here’s why:

You’re more valuable to them

With an advanced online degre programs, you’re a more valuable employee.  You have a greater range of skills, you understand your business and industry better, and you’re better able to take a leadership position.  Companies are well aware that educated employees give them an edge.  That’s why those who hold four-year degrees are almost universally paid more than those without.

You’re more likely to stay

The more it does for its employees, the more a company can expect to keep them.  Many companies offer tuition reimbursement under the condition that the employee stay for a certain number of years, and it couldn’t hurt to offer to sign such an agreement if none is in place—just to show your dedication.

An educated workforce makes your company more competitive

Educating its workforce gives your company a way to keep an edge over the competition.  Any business is only as good as the people who keep it going.  By getting an education, you’re making your entire company more competitive.

How to Broach the Subject

Whether or not your company has a reimbursement program in place, you’ll need to go in prepared.  Schedule a meeting with your boss, and bring in the following information.

Know your company

You should know how well your company’s doing, your major competition, and the steps your company has taken to get ahead of it in the past.  Highlight the benefits of an educated workforce as one more way to get an edge over the competitors.

Know your school and programs

You should know exactly which school you plan to choose, which course of study you plan to pursue, and which classes are particularly relevant to your job.  Be prepared to discuss the pros and cons of online education with your boss, as well. 

Sell yourself

Discuss your own performance as an employee.  Outline your contributions to the company, and provide details of how you have saved or earned money for your employer in the past.  Be prepared to put a value on yourself in terms of dollars.

Next, relate this degree to your job.  Discuss in detail the contributions you’d be able to make with it.  Explain how the degree would benefit the company as a whole. 

The bottom line?  Make your boss realize just how valuable you are now—and how much more valuable you could be with this degree.

Remind your boss of the benefits

Discuss the reasons why an educated workforce is good for your company: more valuable workers, an edge over the competition, and more commitment among employees. 

Assuaging Your Boss’s Concerns

There are plenty of reasons why bosses say no to these requests.  Your boss may be afraid you’ll take your fancy new degree to a different company.  She may be concerned that the cost will be too great, or that your degree doesn’t have enough to do with your current job.  In addition, she may have some reservations about online programs. Before going in, write down all possible objections your boss may have, and your answers to them. 

Assure your boss of your commitment to your company

If possible, offer to sign an agreement stating your willingness to commit a certain number of years to your company after receiving your degree.  Many in-place reimbursement programs require such agreements.

Explain how the benefits outweigh the costs

Your boss may be able to write off the cost of your tuition as a training expense, and the cost of the degree may be offset by your increased value as an employee.  Don’t be afraid to discuss this in terms as concrete as possible. 

Explain how this online degree relates to your job

Don’t let your boss think you simply want to use their money to jump-start an entry into a new field.  No matter what degree you choose, make sure you explain how holding such a degree will help you in your current position.

Explain why you chose an online program

Some businesses and professionals still have reservations about online degrees.  Know your school’s accreditation status, and be prepared to discuss the benefits of an online degree.  One of the most significant from the boss’s perspective is flexibility: you’ll be able to study without taking time from the workday.

Your boss may not say yes right away.  Don’t make an annoyance of yourself, but do follow up again after about two weeks.  If the answer is “no” initially, that doesn’t mean it always will be—so keep trying to negotiate.




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