With unemployment rates at historical lows, some employers may use a tuition assistance program as a tool to attract, engage and retain employees.
I am an advocate for employer educational assistance because I benefited from such a program early in my career.
The healthcare organization I worked for offered a generous tuition assistance program that allowed me to finish an undergraduate degree.
Once I left corporate to pursue a calling to help a large ministry, that organization helped with the advanced degree educational costs.
For me going to school while working helped me to translate the business principles I was learning into real life situations. This made the experience applicable to the job and made me feel like I could contribute to the success of the organization at a higher level.
6 Things to Consider When Creating a Tuition Assistance Program
1. Program Goal
Churches have limited resources so adding, what can be a costly benefit like educational assistance, needs to have a purpose.
As your personnel committee discuses the pros and cons of offering such a benefit, define the goal.
Is the goal to develop current employees for more responsibility, have staff learn the latest trends in an area of ministry or simply focus on retaining workers.
Use the SMART goal model and make sure you are specific about what you are trying to do and that you can measure your success.
Think about the goal and use that as the marker for the program.
2. Benefit Inclusions
So you have decided to create this program so now you need to define what it means. You will have to determine what is included in the benefit and the dollar limit for the benefit.
For instance, will the benefit include costs of books and other educational fees or simply tuition? What is the maximum annual tuition the benefit will cover?
3. Cost of Benefit
This is no doubt an expensive benefit so you need to make sure your church budget can absorb this as a church employee benefit.
Reach out to employees and try to determine who in the ranks would even take advantage of a tuition benefit and try and determine the average participation rate. This will help you put a dollar on the annual cost.
4. Approval Process
As you create the policy for this benefit, think about who in the organization has the authority to review the application and do final approval.
Determine if it will be the business administrator, the personnel committee or the employee manager. Just be sure there is consistency in practice.
5. Administration of Benefit
Most employee benefits require someone to administer it. Whether it is explaining the tuition reimbursement policy, directing staff to required paperwork or working with the accounting department to authorize the payment, there is no doubt an administrative side to this.
Make sure someone has responsibility to oversee the benefit process written into their job description to ensure employees have a go-to person to help them access it.
6. Benefit Policy
Write a tuition reimbursement policy to explain what is covered and to answer employee questions.
Think about things like:
- what if the employee leaves employment while receiving the benefit
- what percentage of tuition cost will be covered
- how long does it take to get reimbursed
- how long is an employee required to stay employed after using the benefit
- is the benefit available to all staff or just full-time or salaried employees
Gather your team and design your policy to reflect your organizational values, your compensation strategy and your goal for the benefit.
No doubt not all churches have the resources to invest in a costly benefit such as tuition assistance. However if your ministry can, the benefit can help improve jobs skills, and contribute to employee engagement and retention. All of which are important to a growing and thriving ministry!
If you would like to see a sample tuition reimbursement policy and request form you can access our growing library here.