HR Support on Employee Education and Tuition Assistance

Editor's Note: Education and tuition assistance programs are beneficial, but restrictions protect employers.

Tracy MorleyOverview: As part of an employee benefit program, employers can offer education and tuition assistance programs in an effort to support employees in their professional development and broaden their knowledge and skills. The investment an employer makes in an employee's future often translates into an increase in job satisfaction, efficiency and productivity as formal education is transferred to the job.

Employers may provide tuition assistance for undergraduate and/or graduate level courses. The benefit may also include reimbursement for books, administrative fees and tests. Most employers put a cap on the dollar amount of the benefit they provide, which is usually the maximum amount that can be provided to the employee on a tax-free basis in accordance with IRS guidelines.

Most employers put guidelines in place for tuition assistance. For example, employers might require that: (i) classes be job-related in order to qualify for reimbursement; (ii) employees stay with the company for a certain period of time after completion of a degree program (if an employee voluntarily leaves the company before the agreed upon time frame, he or she may have to reimburse the employer some or all of the money); and (iii) employees earn a passing grade and/or maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) in order to qualify for tuition assistance.

Author: Tracy Morley, SPHR, Legal Editor

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