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How to Pay for an MBA With Employer Tuition Assistance

Cost is one of the top obstacles standing between many people and their dream of earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA). According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), cost is the number one barrier preventing candidates from enrolling in graduate business programs, with 49% of respondents citing it as their main concern. In addition to the cost of tuition, students need to pay for fees, books and other supplies.

Many MBA students manage this by working while they complete their program. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) reports that 62.2% of MBA students pursue their education part-time. And although students may save some money by attending school online instead of on campus, graduate school is still a major financial obligation.

If you’re not sure how to pay for an MBA, employer tuition assistance might be an option for you. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, in 2020, almost half of employers offered tuition assistance as an employee benefit.

Types of Employer Tuition Assistance for MBA Students

There are several different ways that an employer may help pay for the cost of your MBA. Some employers have agreements with educational institutions allowing their employees to earn a degree at a particular institution at a lower cost or no cost to the student. Other employers may cover the full or partial cost of an MBA in exchange for an agreement that the employee stays with the employer for a defined amount of time (e.g., two years after the employee earns the degree).

Many employers see the value in helping employees attain their educational goals, but it’s important to understand the terms of the agreement with your employer if they’re helping cover the cost.

You may want to consider:

  • When and how will you be reimbursed?
  • What costs will the employer assist with (e.g., tuition, books, fees, etc.)?
  • What schools or programs can you attend with the employer’s financial assistance?

MBA tuition reimbursement plans vary by organization, making it crucial to clearly understand your company’s offer and your responsibilities under it. In general, most companies have a limit to how much they will reimburse for education. This is in part due to IRS regulations that require students to pay taxes on any employer tuition reimbursement over $5,250.

How to Ask for Tuition Assistance for Your MBA

If your employer doesn’t have a formal education assistance program, you may want to ask your employer if they're willing to help with the cost. However, you will likely need to make a case about why you are a great candidate to receive it. The following strategies can help you build your case.

Highlight Your Performance

A good place to start is by summarizing your experience and showcasing your achievements. This is a great way to show your employer that you bring real value to the company. Make sure you quantify your achievements when possible. For example, highlight specific projects or initiatives, emphasizing measurable outcomes such as increased revenue, cost savings or improved efficiency.

Discuss Your Career Ambitions

Clarify what you are hoping to achieve through earning an MBA and how this aligns with your larger career ambitions. Be sure to articulate how the MBA program will enhance your skills, knowledge and abilities and how that benefits the organization. Make a list of specific benefits so that it is easy to draw a line between your continued education and improved outcomes at work.

Explain the Benefits of Earning an MBA

Many employers have specific rules about which types of programs they will cover. Be aware of this, and be prepared to explain the benefits of earning an MBA. Discuss the types of skills you will learn in your program and how this could help you become a better employee. Be specific and offer outside sources of information that solidify how the skills you learn in your MBA program support both your career and their business goals.

Clearly State How Much Assistance You Will Need

It is important to communicate your financial need for tuition assistance in a professional and transparent manner. Employers often have specific guidelines for how much tuition assistance they can provide, but other employers may be flexible. So when you present the idea to our employer, provide a breakdown of the expected total cost of the program, how much you plan to personally contribute and how much you are seeking through tuition assistance.

Give Your Employer Time to Make a Decision

By giving them ample time, you make it easier for them to thoughtfully evaluate your request. It demonstrates your professionalism and respect for their decision-making process. This makes it more likely that your request will be accommodated.

Suggest a Retention Agreement

A retention agreement is a contract you make with your employer that states that you intend to remain with the company for a certain amount of time. If your employer doesn’t have a formal tuition assistance program in place, suggesting a retention agreement might be helpful. For example, your retention agreement might state you will continue to work for the company for a minimum of two years after the completion of your MBA.

Grow Your Career with the Purdue Online MBA

If you’re ready to see how education fits into your career plan, learn more about the Purdue Online MBA and financial aid options. You can also access a customizable presentation highlighting the value of an MBA that you can use with your employer. To get started, reach out today to connect with an enrollment specialist.

If you would like to receive more information about pursuing a business master’s at the Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, please fill out the form and a program specialist will be in touch!

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