When Starbucks barista Susanna started taking online classes through Arizona State University, she was initially unsure about earning her degree online. But now, she’s one of 10,000 ASU graduates who’ve received degrees using the 100% tuition reimbursement offered by the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.
And Starbucks employees aren’t the only ones to enjoy employer tuition reimbursement programs, as somewhere between 48% and 80% of employers offer these benefits. Yet many employees aren’t aware that their employers will pay for their tuition as they learn relevant employment skills to complement their roles, so they don’t know how to take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs.
This guide aims to clear up any confusion and make sure you understand how to utilize your employer’s tuition reimbursement program. Plus, we’ll reveal 35 companies with stellar programs. Keep reading to learn how tuition reimbursement might pave the way to your future degree and career.
Employer Tuition Reimbursement Logistics
All employer tuition reimbursement programs have a different process and eligibility requirements, but there are some universal approaches that you can apply as you being to research programs. Let’s take a deep dive into the five common steps that will allow you to explore tuition reimbursement options from your employer.
Talk to Your HR Department
Because each company has different eligibility requirements and amounts that they’ll reimburse, it’s best to go straight to the source: your employer’s HR department. When talking to them, consider asking:
- How much will the company reimburse?
- Are there any requirements for courses or degree types that can be reimbursed?
- How does the reimbursement process work at our company?
- Are there any employee eligibility requirements I need to know about, such as working at the company for a certain amount of time?
If you don’t currently have a job but would like to find one with tuition reimbursement, you can also bring up some of these questions in the job application process, especially when you’re interviewing with a recruiter or other HR professional.
File the FAFSA
For any type of financial aid, it’s always best to fill out the FAFSA. The FAFSA is a form from the federal government that assesses your current financial situation and how much of your tuition you can afford to pay. While you submit your FAFSA to the federal government, it can be used by other organizations to determine financial aid, including by your employer.
Bonus tip: The process to file the FAFSA can be confusing, so we’ve developed this convenient guide to understanding the FAFSA.
Register for Classes
Once you have the details on how your employer’s tuition reimbursement program works and have filed the FAFSA, it’s time to register for classes. When registering, choose your classes carefully — and with any employer restrictions in mind.
For some employer reimbursement programs, only certain courses are eligible. At J.M. Smucker, for example, courses that relate to the knowledge, skills, and job effectiveness of an employee’s current role may be reimbursed. Other courses cannot. That means a marketing course may be reimbursed for a social media manager at the company, but not necessarily for an engineer.
Submit Your Paperwork for Qualified Class Reimbursement
After you’ve enrolled and paid for classes, it’s time to submit the paperwork. When an employer offers reimbursement, it means your employer pays you back after you have already paid for classes. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure you budget for the initial cost of tuition.
Once you pay tuition, you’ll want to fill out the paperwork to get reimbursed as soon as possible. It can be helpful to ask your company’s HR department for the reimbursement forms before you enroll in classes so you can get through the reimbursement process faster.
Make Sure You Fulfill Any Academic Requirements
As you work through your degree, make sure you are on track to meet any academic requirements from your employer. Exact requirements will vary from employer to employer.
Some programs, like McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity program, have fewer requirements. McDonald’s funds employees who want to get any type of degree. Other programs have stricter parameters, like at Intermountain Healthcare — where only courses related to a nursing or healthcare role are reimbursed.
Spotlight on Tuition Reimbursement Programs
Even though we’ve outlined the way employer tuition reimbursement works in general, there are some exceptions and differences, depending on who your employer is. To understand the nuances of how different programs work, we researched over 35 different companies that offer tuition reimbursement.
The five spotlighted programs below stood out in terms of how much they reimburse and the variety of eligible employees and degrees. Let’s explore how each of the five works and some important eligibility requirements.
Starbucks offers two amazing tuition reimbursement options for employees:
- 100% tuition reimbursement for online coursework through its partner school, Arizona State University, regardless of where the employee lives/works
- Up to $1,000 per calendar year in tuition reimbursement at any other accredited institution
Both programs are available to part-time and full-time employees who work in corporate offices or in stores.
Full-time and part-time FedEx employees who are not package handlers are eligible to apply for tuition reimbursement. FedEx reimburses different amounts depending on an employee’s role:
- Administrative and clerical employees who work full-time are eligible for up to $5,000 annually in tuition reimbursement.
- Part-time employees in administrative and clerical roles are eligible for $1,500 per year in tuition reimbursement.
- Non-administrative or clerical part-time employees have a limit of $2,500 per calendar year in reimbursement.
Eligibility starts as soon as an employee begins working at the company.
While Patagonia has made headlines for its commitment to fighting the climate crisis, and recently when its founder gave the company away to a non-profit that fights climate change, this isn’t the only cause the company supports. They also care about the health and well-being of their employees. Patagonia boasts numerous employee benefits that go far beyond what many other large companies offer (such as on-site childcare for their larger service-centers and paid parental leave), and a tuition reimbursement program is reported to be part of its comprehensive employee benefits package.
Patagonia is a privately held company so while the program isn’t specifically addressed on its website, past employees have reported receiving up to $4,000 a year on Glassdoor. This policy seems to apply to part-time and full-time employees. So, if you care about the environment and want to work for a cause while pursuing a higher education, a job at Patagonia can help you do that.
All Intuit employees who want to continue their education are eligible for tuition reimbursement, so long as the degrees or courses relate to their career at the company. Part-time employees can be reimbursed up to $2,626 per year, and full-time employees up to $5,250 annually.
Tuition isn’t the only expense covered under this program. Intuit will also cover lab fees, registration applications, and required books and software. Parking, elective fees, and other costs associated with education are not covered.
Part-time and full-time employees at Verizon can continue their education at Bellevue University and utilize VZTAP, Verizon’s tuition reimbursement program. Verizon reimburses part-time employees up to $8,000 a year and full-time employees up to $13,250 per calendar year.
Verizon employees enjoy other benefits at Bellevue University, such as a waived application fee.
Big List of Employers That Offer Tuition Reimbursement
Starbucks, FedEx, Intuit, Patagonia, and Verizon aren’t the only companies with employer tuition reimbursement programs. As we mentioned earlier, somewhere between 48 and 80% of companies offer tuition reimbursement, including the 30 companies below.
If you don’t see your company listed, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a reimbursement program. It simply indicates you should set up a meeting with HR to discuss your options!
This insurance company offers a robust benefits package, including tuition reimbursement. Eligible employees can receive $5,250 on pre-approved education expenses each year.
Amazon is committed to the education of all employees. They offer prepay and reimbursement programs for employees in 14 countries, including the United States.
Employees looking for a formal education or continuing education that is related to their career can benefit from Apple’s reimbursement program. The tech company will reimburse up to $5,250 per year in tuition and other education-related expenses.
This healthcare system provides employee tuition reimbursement for select programs at partner universities. Covered programs include CPR courses, LPN to RN programs, and other health-related degrees. All employees may apply.
This national bank has had a reimbursement program for years, but they recently increased the amount from $5,250 to $7,500 per year. You can choose a prepaid voucher or reimbursement. Employees are also eligible for reimbursement for certain professional certifications.
Full-time employees at BP are eligible for up to 90% tuition reimbursement. This benefit is only for pre-approved courses related to job responsibilities.
Part-time and full-time associates at Capital One are eligible to receive up to $5,250 per year up front for tuition, rather than through reimbursement, meaning employees don’t have to shoulder the cost. This perk applies to both undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Chick-fil-A offers part-time and full-time employees tuition discounts at more than 100 colleges and universities. Workers must attend one of their partner universities to receive this benefit, and the amount reimbursed varies by university.
This popular national food chain offers up to $5,250 per year in tuition assistance. Part-time and full-time employees can apply for this program.
CVS offers up to $3,000 annually for undergraduate and graduate degrees and up to $1,500 for non-degree programs, such as GED courses.
Deloitte’s Graduate School Assistance Program covers the full cost of MBA tuition for high-performing consultants. The firm also provides free resources to help students during the MBA application process.
Employees of Discover can enjoy up to 100% tuition reimbursement ($5,250 per year) through their partnership with Guild Education. This is only available at select partner universities.
The Disney Aspire program helps employees’ education dreams come true. Depending on the employee’s experience with the company and degree type, Disney will cover up to 100% of tuition costs.
Full-time employees are eligible for up to 90% tuition coverage, with a max of $10,000 in reimbursements per calendar year.
This tech giant is known for offering great employee benefits, including tuition reimbursement. Those who have worked at the company for at least 90 days are eligible for $5,000 annually in tax-free tuition reimbursement.
Home Depot will cover up to 50% of the tuition price for associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and technical degrees. Full-time and part-time employees may apply for tuition reimbursement.
Intermountain Healthcare provides tuition reimbursement for its healthcare employees. The exact amount is dependent upon how long an employee has worked there, and eligible RNs can get up to 100% of their tuition reimbursed.
This national food brand provides tuition reimbursement for courses related to the current job responsibilities and effectiveness of an employee. The exact amount that will be reimbursed varies, depending on the degree type and other factors.
After one year of working with J.P. Morgan Chase, employees are eligible for tuition reimbursement. The amount reimbursed depends on your experience at the company.
This well-known grocery chain offers up to $21,000 total and $3,500 per year in tuition reimbursement. This covers online degrees at three partner institutions.
McDonald’s provides tuition reimbursement to managers, crew members, and other part-time and full-time employees who have worked at the company for at least 90 days. Reimbursement through the Archways to Opportunity program can cover up to $5,250 annually and be used toward any degree type.
Staff and faculty at Ohio State University can enjoy tuition reimbursement on courses taken through the OSU system. This reimbursement plan covers tuition and non-Ohio resident fees for up to 10 hours per term.
Papa John’s covers up to the full cost of tuition for part-time and full-time employees as part of its Dough and Degrees college benefit.
If an employee goes back to school to improve their Salesforce career, they may be eligible for reimbursement. Salesforce will reimburse up to $5,250 per calendar year.
Employees of this fast-food chain are eligible for 5-20% tuition discounts at select universities and tuition reimbursement on select degrees. Part-time and full-time employees may be eligible.
Part-time and full-time employees are eligible for up to $10,000 annually in tuition reimbursement. This applies to frontline workers in stores across the nation.
Employees of this cell phone provider are eligible for up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursement each year. Employees may also be able to apply for full tuition reimbursement at select universities.
Select employees at healthcare centers and clinics associated with the University of Iowa may be eligible for 50% tuition reimbursement for science and professional degrees. Workers must have been with the company for at least one year.
Since 1999, UPS has offered tuition assistance to employees. Currently, employees are eligible for up to $5,250 a year and $25,000 in their lifetime for tuition reimbursement.
Employees at Wells Fargo can enjoy tuition reimbursement of up to $5,000 in tuition each year.
FAQs About Tuition Reimbursement
After reading about the basic steps for reimbursement and browsing our massive list of 30 companies with attractive tuition assistance programs, you may still have questions. Check out the answers to the most frequently asked questions about employer tuition reimbursement programs.
How long do I have to work for a company before I can get tuition reimbursement?
This depends on the company. Some companies like FedEx offer it from day one. Others only offer it to employees with a certain number of years or months at the company. Intermountain Healthcare, for example, offers employees a reimbursement amount commensurate with their experience at the company.
To know how long you need to work at a specific company to be eligible, contact your employer’s HR department.
Will the company cover all of my tuition or just part of it?
Most companies will not cover all of your tuition. Out of all the schools we researched, only the following companies offered 100% reimbursement, and only for select degrees or universities:
- Intermountain Healthcare
- Ohio State University
- Papa John’s
Check with your employer to confirm amount of reimbursement, but as a rule of thumb, it’s best to budget some personal money toward tuition; it’s uncommon to be reimbursed for your entire degree.
Can I get tuition reimbursement if I only work part-time?
At many places, the answer is yes. This is especially true for service-based employees instead of those working corporate 9-to-5s. Chick-fil-A, for example, offers tuition discounts to full-time and part-time staff members as well as their families.
However, that might not be the case at your company. To know for sure, please check with your HR department.
Do I have to pay for my school first and then get reimbursed?
This is frequently how it works. By definition, the word “reimbursement” means someone is giving you money after you have purchased something. In this case, your employer is providing financial reimbursement for the money you spent on tuition.
However, companies are starting to recognize the burden of paying for your tuition first and being reimbursed later. As a response, some employers, like Amazon, feature a prepay option as part of their tuition assistance programs.
If your employer only offers reimbursement, you’ll want to create a plan to budget for the initial tuition costs. This might include saving up or temporarily draining your savings account to pay for tuition.
Can I attend any college I want to?
For most employer reimbursement programs, you can attend any university you want. There are some exceptions to this rule, especially when a larger corporation has an agreement or partnership with a university.
Once again, check with your employer to confirm college choice parameters.
Are there academic requirements for tuition reimbursement?
For many employers, there are specific academic requirements. These programs are often designed to improve on-the-job effectiveness, so if you’re a software engineer, for example, getting a master’s in creative writing may not improve your work performance.
How does tuition reimbursement work on my taxes?
An accountant will be your best resource to answer this question. However, the IRS does offer basic guidelines on tuition reimbursement and taxes. When filing your income taxes, you can exclude up to $5,250 of your assistance benefits. This also means your employer shouldn’t include assistance with your wages and tips on Form W-2.
Because tax law can get tricky, it’s always best to seek specific advice from your accountant or your employer’s payroll department.
If my employer doesn’t offer tuition reimbursement, what can I do?
Let’s say you talk to your HR department and discover there is no tuition reimbursement program at your company. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to afford attending a university. You have many financial aid options available to you, including scholarships, grants, student loans, and work-study programs.
For a better understanding of how other financial aid types work, explore our financial aid guide for online students.
Additional Tuition Reimbursement Resources
After reading this guide, you should be ready to navigate your employer’s reimbursement program. But in case you still need guidance, or if this guide has inspired a few additional questions, we’re here to provide 10 additional free resources.
Explore the following blogs, podcasts, and more to learn all you can about tuition assistance or reimbursement:
- Budgeting for college: Even with employer reimbursement, you’ll still have to pay tuition first and be responsible for other costs, such as buying textbooks. This guide from Stanford University reviews everything you need to know about creating a student budget.
- Get the most out of your reimbursement: Similar to credit card points or a loyalty rewards program at your favorite restaurant, there are some additional actions you can take to get the most benefit from your employer’s tuition reimbursement program. Check out ideas from this LinkedIn newsletter.
- Graduate tuition reimbursement: If you’re a graduate student, it may be beneficial to read more about how reimbursement works for master’s and PhD degrees. Northeastern University explains all you need to know in this article.
- How reimbursement works: Still confused about how tuition reimbursement works? Check out this resource from a YouTuber and nurse who outlines what you need to know in video format.
- Make the case to your employer: Reimbursement programs can be started by employees. Rutgers University outlines how to make the case to your employer that tuition reimbursement would be a helpful perk at your company.
- Negotiate tuition assistance: Let’s say your current employer doesn’t offer tuition assistance. There’s still a chance you could negotiate it in a contract renewal using these tips.
- Nurse tuition reimbursement: Many healthcare workers, including nurses, must have continuing education credits to maintain their license. Bright Horizons is a company that helps healthcare companies implement reimbursement programs, and they list healthcare systems with this benefit on their website.
- The Point Podcast: Prefer to learn more about tuition reimbursement in an audio format? Check out this episode from the Point Podcast.
- Taxes and reimbursement: if you have other questions about taxes and reimbursement, refer to the guidelines outlined by the IRS. It may also help to review these with an accountant.
- Tuition reimbursement vs. assistance: As you explored the programs in this article, you may have noticed that some used the word “assistance” while others opted for “reimbursement.” This article from the University of Massachusetts Global explains key differences.