Back to school?

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Maybe it's been a few years since you were a bright-eyed college student. Do you miss the days when the crisp scent of fall signaled the start of the school year, and not just another day of sitting in a cubicle working for The Man?

Tuition reimbursement, a common benefit at many businesses, could be your ticket back to the hallowed halls of academia.

In an Accountemps survey of 150 senior executives from the nation's 1,000 largest companies, 94 percent said their company offered college tuition reimbursement for employees. And 95 percent said their companies reimburse for other forms of professional development, as well.

Be aware, though, that solid, well-established companies are going to be more willing to offer tuition assistance as part of a compensation package than startups - the cost to cover reimbursement for eligible employees for one semester could run as high as $10,000, according to

At Accountemps, "we encourage anybody to take advantage of ongoing education," Skidmore said. The company offers staffers hundreds of online courses as well as continuing professional development courses.

"There are all types of different arrangements," said Jason Skidmore, regional vice president of Accountemps in Columbus.

Most companies will reimburse for coursework that's "work-related," according to Some employers will pay for classes that'll prepare you for the job you're doing now, while others will pay for coursework to help you develop skills to grow into new positions.

Some companies will ask workers to stay on with the company for a certain number of years after providing them with the tuition benefit.

Skidmore's advice to workers: "Develop a business case and present it to the employer. Lay out the benefits. Mention how the course can build skills and better contribute to the company's overall mission. It is not only a selfish pursuit, but a benefit to the company."

In other words, don't ask to enroll in an accounting class if you think a course in web management would help you and the company down the road.

Also make sure to ask what the boss will pay for. Some tuition programs include books and other fees, while others pay for only for tuition. Some companies will pay at the time of course registration, but others will reimburse the cost only after you successfully complete the course.

Be aware that grades may be important, too. Most companies will base the amount of tuition they reimburse on the employee's grade in the course, according to If you earn lower than a B, many companies will refuse to pay.

Tuition assistance can also lighten your tax burden. The IRS lets you take a deduction of up to $5,250 on your taxes if you've received up to that much in a tuition benefit from your employer. This means your employer does not include the benefits with your wages, tips and other compensation, and you don't have to include them on your income tax return. But any educational benefits above $5,250 are considered part of your income, and you will have to pay taxes on them.