Happy New Year!
For many of us, the New Year means new beginnings. Between December 31st and January 1st we make iron clad decisions to read more books, start attending religious services on a regular basis, and of course…lose weight. Ready to start that new gym membership?
New Beginnings at Home and at Work
It’s not just individuals that make these commitments. Companies do it too. They commit to all sorts of things, from vowing to hit lofty sales targets to promising to develop a stronger workforce. Some people and companies follow through on these commitments, while others shift priorities somewhere along the way.
Here at EdAssist, the New Year means we will be working thousands upon thousands of adult learners from across our client base who are also committing to new beginnings. Most of our clients (employers who offer tuition assistance to their employees) start the calendar year by resetting tuition caps, meaning that their employees now have a fresh start with new funding to pursue educational initiatives.
Some of those employees are planning to continue the degrees they begin in 2013, while others are making plans to use their tuition assistance benefit for the first time this year. But to all of them, I offer the following three pieces of advice as they start the New Year.
My Three Tuition Assistance Tips
1. Budget wisely
Whether you are already enrolled in a degree program or not, make sure that you are planning out the year in order to stretch your tuition assistance dollars as far as you can. For instance, if you have a $5250 annual cap that just reset, how can you make that last for 12 months? The biggest mistake you could make is to exhaust your funding in the first semester, without a plan to fund the rest of the years’ courses. Think about allocating portions of your funding to each semester (Spring, Summer, and Fall), which will greatly relieve your cash flow later in the year if you are in fact paying for a portion of your schooling out of pocket.
2. Leverage your prior learning and existing skill set to earn credits
One of the most common mistakes that adult learners make is spending tuition assistance dollars on courses they do not need to take. They do not realize that previously earned credits from regionally accredited colleges can transfer quite easily, and that many colleges offer credit for work experience. In fact, more and more organizations are now including Prior Learning Assessment and Credit by Examination as covered expenses in their tuition assistance policies. It is worth looking into, and can save valuable time and money toward a degree.
3. Remember that Higher Education is now a buyer’s market
Some college administrators would be furious that I believe this, and probably even more irate that I actually wrote it in my blog. But the fact of the matter is that these days, adult learners have choices. With the cost of education rising each year, and the traditional age student demographic trending downward, schools are looking to fill their seats. There are thousands of colleges and universities out there, and as I wrote in a previous blog entry, there really is a school out there for everyone. These days, adult learners have options, not only in terms of brand, but modality and delivery as well.
Commit to Education in 2014
Tuition assistance is an incredible benefit that offers a strong ROI for both employers and employees. By funding employee education, companies can strategically educate and develop their workforce, retain top talent, and close skills gaps within their organization. Employees meanwhile, can continue their education, obtain new degrees, and build their portfolios without bearing the burden of full tuition costs.
So as we enter the New Year and start committing to new beginnings, think about adding education into the mix, especially if you work for an organization that offers tuition assistance. Just think about how nice that college sticker will look on the back of your car window…as you are driving to your first day at the gym.