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Tuition Reimbursement: From Employee Benefit to Strategic Asset. Marcia Dresner, Senior Research Analyst Corporate University Xchange John Zappa, Senior Vice-President, CAEL. Agenda. About Corporate University Xchange About CAEL Why Offer Tuition Reimbursement

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tuition reimbursement from employee benefit to strategic asset

Tuition Reimbursement: From Employee Benefit to Strategic Asset

Marcia Dresner, Senior Research AnalystCorporate University Xchange

John Zappa, Senior Vice-President, CAEL

  • About Corporate University Xchange
  • About CAEL
  • Why Offer Tuition Reimbursement
  • The Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study
  • Plan Design & Practices
  • Changes
corporate university xchange
Corporate University Xchange
  • Corporate University Xchange (CorpU) is the leading provider of corporate university research, benchmarking, and advisory services for helping organizations transform corporate learning.
  • Founded in 1997, the aim of CorpU research and services is to maximize corporate investments in training and development to deliver improved business results.
  • The Corporate University Xchange Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Corporate Learning are the oldest, most prestigious of the award programs.
  • Our Benchmarking Studies go beyond the numbers to determine how companies are developing people.
  • Membership in CorpU includes:
    • Unlimited analyst inquiries
    • Webinars presented by practitioners
    • Access to an extensive Research Collaboratory
    • Networking with other members
    • Benchmarking comparisons
about cael
About CAEL

Council for Adult and Experiential Learning

A 501(c)3 non-profit organization with global reach and over 30 years of workforce experience

Mission to create and manage learning strategies for working adults

tuition assistance and cael
Tuition Assistance and CAEL
  • Over 20 years experience defining and managing tuition assistance programs
  • Broad base of established clients
    • CAEL served over 60,000 employees seeking tuition assistance from their employers
    • Over 700,000 adults are eligible for tuition assistance programs managed by CAEL
    • Processed $170 million in education funds
why offer tuition assistance
Why Offer Tuition Assistance

Source: CAEL 2004 Tuition Survey

supply of human capital
Supply of Human Capital

Labor Force 25 – 44 years

Source: U.S. Census Data, Creating Value with Human Capital Investment, Dr. Michael Echols, Bellevue University

poll question 1
Poll Question #1
  • A check-box employee benefit
  • Part of the employee value proposition for recruiting and retention
  • A program that can support learning and development goals
  • An important component to support talent management initiatives

My company considers tuition assistance:

the tuition reimbursement study
The Tuition Reimbursement Study

Released in August 2007

180 Organizations surveyed, ranging in size from 100 employees to over 100,000.

Source: Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study 2007

industries represented
Industries Represented

Source: Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study 2007

plan design ownership
Plan Design - Ownership

Tuition Reimbursement is primarily the responsibility

of Human Resources Departments.

In large companies (>50,000) and in the manufacturing industries, L&D takes a much larger role.

Source: Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study 2007

plan design what
Plan Design – What

Source: Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study 2007

plan design where15
Plan Design – Where

Accreditation is key, with more than 70 percent of companies requiring that a college or university be accredited before they will pay.

Some companies, like Intel, go farther and specify which accrediting bodies are acceptable.

On-line colleges and universities are always acceptable at more than half of companies, and sometimes acceptable at another 47 percent.

plan design accreditation
Plan Design -- Accreditation

Accreditation is a quality assurance process, not a license to operate

Three types

Regional Accreditation (evaluates entire Institution)

National Accreditation (single purpose – i.e. distance education)

Professional Accreditation (specific program such as engineering or business school)

Most employers accept Regional Accreditation as the gold standard for undergraduate degrees.

For more information check out Council for Higher Education Accreditation (

qualcomm choosing schools
Qualcomm – Choosing Schools

Qualcomm’s tuition assistance program supports both business requirements and an employee career development philosophy.

About 180 approved classroom-based schools are approved for reimbursement, approximately 40% of which are outside of the US. Six distance-only programs approved. Schools are added to the list upon request and when Qualcomm establishes new locations.

Key criteria used for approving schools include:

Is the school a not-for-profit institution? Is it accredited? What is its ongoing reputation for quality education/research?

Is it near a Qualcomm office?

Are faculty professional educators/researchers? Is 50 percent or more of faculty employed full-time?

Are Qualcomm-business relevant subjects and degree programs offered?

Is original research conducted by either the school or faculty?

plan design dollars
Plan Design – Dollars

Companies are generous in the limits put on tuition reimbursement.

77 percent of companies have the same limits regardless of job role (shown below).

Those that don’t have the same limits for everyone generally have higher limits than those that do.

Source: Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study 2007

plan design payment terms and timing
Plan Design – Payment Terms and Timing

Over 70 percent of companies pay following course completion with a grade of C or better.

Only 25 percent pay upon registration and manager approval.

Source: Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study 2007

plan design payment terms and timing20
Plan Design – Payment Terms and Timing

Two Relevant Models

Traditional Reimbursement

Prepayment/Voucher Option

Why offer Prepayment Option?

Attractive Incentive for front-line staff;

Eliminates out of pocket expense

Strategy for engaging new employees

Increase program utilization 5%12%

plan design service agreements
Plan Design – Service Agreements

Source: Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study 2007

practices participation rates
The overall average participation reported was 5.2 percent, with the largest number of companies reporting just 2.1-4 percent participation.

When L&D is in charge of the program, that number goes up to 6.2 percent.

About 28 percent of respondents felt that participation was too low.

Practices - Participation Rates

Source: Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study 2007

poll question 2
Poll Question #2

We do not encourage usage

Managers are encouraged to discuss tuition assistance as part of the career development process

The value of the program is promoted to employees (e.g. intranet, information provided during orientation, company newsletters, etc.)

Employees are recognized and rewarded for using the program (e.g. awards, success stories are promoted, stock incentives, etc.)

What is the primary method you use to increase

program participation?

practices spending
The overall averages for actual spend per year are $1600 for non-degree courses, $3400 for Bachelor’s level courses, and $4500 for both Master’s and Ph.D. level courses.

Average spend per participating employee







Bachelor’s Level



Master’s Level



Ph.D. Level












$9,000 or





Practices - Spending

Source: Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study 2007

real market price of tuition
Real Market Price of Tuition

Source: The Market Price of Tuition, CAEL and Bellevue University’s Human Capital Lab, November 2007

sample case study
Sample Case Study

Bachelor’s Degree in Business

  • Approximately 120 -128 credits
  • $323 per credit hour
  • Employee is taking 20 credits per year
  • Completes in 6 years
  • Year 1 = $6460 plus fees and books
  • Six year cost = $45,060
practices measurement
Most companies justify the dollars spent for tuition reimbursement as part of an employee value proposition that attracts and retains employees.

The most recent Eduventures study concluded that 45 percent of companies do some measurement around their programs.

When the CorpU study asked a question about measuring the impact of the programs, a totally different picture emerged.

Practices - Measurement
practices measurement28
Practices - Measurement

Source: Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study 2007

case study verizon wireless
Case Study: Verizon Wireless
  • Nation’s most reliable wireless network
  • Over 64 million wireless customers
  • 70,000 employees in 49 states
  • Ranked #4 in Training Magazine’s Top 125 companies for 2007
learninglink tuition program
LearningLINK Tuition Program

Encourage and assist employees in achieving their educational and career development goals

Build critical organizational competencies and knowledge

Attract and retain the very best employees

measure outcomes
Measure Outcomes



Career Mobility

Job Performance


36% of LearningLINK participants surveyed felt the tuition assistance program was a definite factor in their decision to accept employment at Verizon Wireless

19% of LearningLINK participants surveyed felt the tuition assistance program was probably a factor in their employment decision

42% of LearningLINK participants have been with the company 2 years or less

19% have been with the company less than 1 year


Add another graph to show termination rates

96% of LearningLINK participants surveyed said they intended to stay with Verizon Wireless for at least two years after completion of their degrees

career mobility
Career Mobility

Job transfers include promotions, lateral and developmental moves

job performance
Job Performance

4,510 managers of LL participants surveyed

52% of respondents noticed a change in job performance and behaviors while employees were engaged in LearningLINK program

71% reported improved performance on the job

73% reported improved behaviors on the job

retention value
Retention Value

Rehire cost based on VZW population


Rehire cost based on LL population


Turnover savings


  • Based on 10,105 participants
  • Average VZW turnover rate of 19%
  • Average LearningLINK turnover rate of 8%
  • Average FTE re-hire cost of $23,000
  • Program expenses for 2006 were $23.5 million
caterpillar clear goals measurement and more
Caterpillar – Clear Goals, Measurement, and More

Executive management is clear about the goal: To develop an internal talent pipeline with people prepared for new roles.

The tuition assistance program (TAP) managers report to senior management exactly who is using the program, and what courses of study they are pursuing.

Courses of study are linked to the employee’s development goals, not necessarily to current positions.

Articles and success stories about the program appear in the internal company newsletter.

Graduates are monitored to see if they are promoted and retained and are polled about their satisfaction with TAP.

poll question 3
Poll Question #3

How likely is your organization to strengthen the alignment between L&D and the Tuition Assistance Program?

We’re already completely aligned

We’re planning changes in this direction in the coming year

We’re considering it as a long term strategy

Not at all likely

practices integration with development
Practices – Integration with Development

Source: Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study 2007

Source: Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study 2007

practices integration with l d
Practices – Integration with L&D

Leverage Preferred Educational Provider Networks for Tuition Discounts

Leverage In-House courses

Review Courses of Study and Types of Degrees

Certification Prep or Continuing Education Course

ACE College Credit Recommendation Services

Improve the Experience for Employees

Integrate the tuition assistance website with in-house education options and featured education providers

Encourage employees to consider in-house education options

Promote information on Prior Learning Assessment

change is coming
Change is Coming

The table shows that many organizations are comfortable enough to keep their plans as is.

But there are more companies willing to increase the money allowed, and integrate tuition reimbursement with IDPs and L&D.

Source: Corporate University Xchange Tuition Reimbursement Study 2007

increase the program s value
Increase the Program’s Value
  • Communicate About the Skills and Credentials That The Company Needs and Values (Internal communications, IDPs, internal job postings)
  • Enlist the efforts of managers and corporate leaders to promote a learning culture
  • Walk the talk by showcasing success stories and demonstrating the value of making the effort
make the program a strategic asset
Make the Program a Strategic Asset

As the talent shortage intensifies, you have the potential to reshape and reposition your tuition program to support and grow talent.

Don’t miss that opportunity!

questions comments
Questions & Comments

Any additional questions, contact us:

[email protected]

[email protected]

Or visit us on the Web at