Tuition assistance is an employment benefit — much like health insurance or 401K plans — offered by some U.S. employers, to help qualifying workers pay for college and advanced training. In most cases, employees need to get pre-approval in order to receive reimbursement for the courses or degrees they wish to pursue. Once an employee successfully applies for funding and completes the coursework, his employer may pay back, or "reimburse," some portion (or all) of the tuition expenses. In addition to the tuition reimbursement model, tuition assistance may include corporate scholarships and advanced payment options (so employees don't have to pay tuition out of pocket at the beginning of a semester).
The following paragraphs address some of the questions commonly associated with employer tuition assistance. Use the dropdown menu below to view a sampling of tuition assistance programs offered by well-known employers in different career sectors.
Aid that Isn't Advertised
Employers don't always advertise their education benefits. They might mention "tuition assistance" on their websites, but they don't publicly volunteer specific data regarding amounts and eligibility. This may occur for several reasons. First, even though companies want to help good employees develop through advanced education, they don't want to attract potential employees who are just looking for a free ride. Moreover, employers might be reluctant to disclose their tuition assistance policies if the economic downturn forced them to institute cutbacks, or if the public is scrutinizing their budgetary decisions. Finally, offerings and amounts may change from year to year — according to profits, union contracts, or management changes.
Benefits for Employers
There are several reasons why your education might be important to your current or prospective employer. "The Effect of Employer Provided General Training on Turnover: Examination of Tuition Reimbursement Programs," a 2007 paper from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, found that tuition reimbursement programs help employers to retain their best employees. Employees who receive a tuition assistance benefit are significantly less likely to quit, or seek a career with another organization. 
Secondly, additional training — even the general education that students gain through undergraduate degree programs — is always useful in workplace settings. For example, on its website “Fact Sheets,” the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) cites several studies showing that nurses with bachelor degrees produce better patient outcomes.  And general college coursework informs any profession that involves communication and critical thinking skills, not to mention the technical coursework that benefits scientists, engineers, IT workers, and countless business professionals. All told, financing your studies is usually a winning investment for your employer.
Guidelines for Prospective Employees
Before you bank on employer-paid tuition, remember that approved courses and degrees usually have to be relevant to the job you are performing or will perform in the future. Some employers may limit the type or location of colleges you can attend. Some employers also reserve tuition assistance benefits for management-level personnel.
Consequently, tuition assistance should only be one factor in determining your career plans. Even though some of the amounts listed below are tempting benefits, the associated terms might mean you'd have to work at an organization for many months before and after receiving college funds. If you're only on board to collect the college cash, you might be unhappy and unproductive.
Tuition Assistance Resources
The dropdown menu above highlights several tuition assistance programs, across a series of business sectors. The organizations were chosen because they represent Fortune 500 companies, America's largest state employers, and everyday businesses that frequently offer entry-level jobs. Some are city-specific or regional firms; others have branch locations in many states.
This tuition assistance list is by no means exhaustive. Hundreds of employers offer similar options. Colleges themselves often offer the best tuition assistance plans for employees and/or their dependents. If you're interested in tuition assistance from a future employer, you should reference the company website and/or inquire with your network contacts through resources like LinkedIn.
The list below highlights several tuition assistance programs within the technology/telecommunications sector. The organizations were chosen because they represent Fortune 500 companies, America’s largest state employers, or everyday businesses...