When it comes to tuition assistance programs, academic advising has a unique role.
In learning and earning, after all, time and resources are at a premium, so a maximized corporate learning strategy serves both student and employer.
But merely providing the benefit (without instructions on how to use it) does neither. Left on their own, employees often don’t understand things like flexible transfer credit policies, competency based education, military discounts, or online versus on-campus or hybrid programs – things that could expedite a degree pursuit, decrease the cost, and as a result maximize your tuition strategy.
More troubling, in the absence of an actionable, well-laid-out plan, employees often take longer than necessary to complete a degree (and so use more resources) or worse…negate the investment entirely by quitting in the middle.
Advising, then, becomes a key component for both employer and employee, guiding adult learners not only on the most efficient way to pursue a degree, but also the one that has the greatest odds of success.
What Adult Learners Need to Know
Adult learners often come into the equation with resources they may not know they have – credits earned or knowledge acquired by experience. A knowledgeable advisor can also guide them on topics such as accreditation, selecting a major, and learning the difference between certain degrees (i.e. Master in Management versus an MBA, or Acute Care NP versus Critical Care NP).
Equally important is information about unconventional ways to earn college credit, perhaps testing out of courses with credit by examination (CLEP), receiving credit for work experience with prior learning assessment (PLA), or having professional training or certificates translate into college credit.
Ten Questions Employees Should Ask
To make the most of the benefit requires employees to ask prospective colleges some key questions:
- What are the admissions requirements for adult learners?
- Are there any placement tests (i.e. ACCUPLACER assessments) or entrance exams (i.e. GRE, GMAT, or LSAT)?
- Are there programs that will work with my schedule? These might include evening or weekend courses, accelerated program options, independent study, online degree programs, hybrid options, or low residency.
- What resources are available to help students decide on a major?
- How many transfer credits will be accepted and is there any expiration for previously earned credits?
- Is CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) or PLA (Prior Learning Assessment) accepted as a way to earn college credit by testing out of courses or receiving credit for work and life experience?
- Are tutors available if extra help is needed?
- Will there be other adult learners in the class or are classes comprised of traditional-age college students?
- Will academic advisors be available to offer guidance on courses to take?
- Are there scholarship opportunities for adult learners or alternative options for paying for school?
Maximizing the Employer’s Tuition Dollar
Equally critical, advisors help coordinate student’s educational ambitions with the organization’s tuition assistance policy, corporate learning strategy, and employee development goals. This, in turn, benefits the employer by building a more educated workforce, attracting highly motivated employees, and reducing employee turnover.
This approach has proved invaluable to EdAssist – largely in the substantial amount we save our clients through tuition program management. It also highlights that a tuition program without advising risks losing much of its value.
By fostering and supporting the engagement of the student, advisors not only steer students to the most economical options, they also help them to maximize the odds of actually attaining their degree.