If you're seeking a college degree but don't want to accrue a large student loan in the process, it's worth considering working at one of the many companies that offer some type of tuition assistance program. Some major companies have chosen to offer full tuition coverage so that you can earn an undergraduate degree with little expense, while many others offer a certain amount yearly for college costs or partner with schools to offer a tuition discount. Companies offering financial help for college often require job-related areas of study but may be flexible in where you attend as long as it's an accredited school.
Read More: Types of Financial Aid for College
Starbucks fully funds college tuition and fees for part- and full-time employees who qualify for company benefits and want to earn a bachelor's degree online in one of 100 areas of study. Employees must take their classes at Arizona State University and pay for some things out of pocket such as a computer and books. Starbucks also offers some financial help for people who need to take some prerequisite courses to qualify to study at the university.
To qualify for this program, you must not have completed a bachelor's program before. However, you're allowed to transfer to Arizona State University to take advantage of the benefits if you're currently in the middle of a bachelor's program. Also, you'll need to work at Starbucks for three months or longer and accrue 240 work hours before you can apply to study. Starbucks requires that you first apply for federal financial aid and take a special college orientation class as well.
Available to Amazon employees with at least one year of seniority, the Career Choice program helps fund studying for a certificate or associate degree in certain fields deemed as in-demand. Some examples include nursing, aircraft repair and various areas of technology. Amazon mentions that employees can often take on-site classes at the company's facilities for convenience, but participants can study at another college, university or vocational school with accreditation.
The company provides a 95 percent prepayment for college tuition, fees and books, up to a maximum of $3,000 annually. You can take advantage of the program for four years, so the lifetime maximum is $12,000. Due to the relatively low annual limits, workers may fund the rest of their education with federal financial aid options like grants and student loans as well as apply for scholarships.
Read More: Finding Scholarship Opportunities
Through a partnership with Guild Education, Chipotle gives its part- and full-time staff a few options to get full tuition or partial tuition coverage for various bachelor's and master's degree programs as well as professional certificate programs.
Employees pay no tuition at all if they enroll in a qualified hospitality, agriculture or culinary degree program, as Chipotle pays for these kinds of programs upfront. Otherwise, the company awards $5,250 annually for other educational options in areas like business and technology through either reimbursement or upfront payment, and encourages workers to also seek free money through federal grants to cover additional costs.
Employees must study through one of several accredited schools such as Southern New Hampshire University, the University of Denver and Purdue University Global. These partner schools may award credits for some of the training Chipotle requires for work, and this can speed up degree completion.
4. Home Depot
Home Depot has a tuition reimbursement program that not only offers benefits to part- and full-time workers but also to their immediate family members. While family members can get $2,500 annually, the amounts are $3,000 for employees working part-time and $6,000 for employees working full-time. The program covers a wide range of programs at vocational schools, colleges and universities from the associate to doctoral degree level and sets a 50 percent limit for fees, tuition and books. There's also coverage for short courses such as one to learn CPR or another language.
Home Depot workers can qualify from their employment start date but will need to get their courses approved and get a "C" grade or higher to have the company pay for the course. While workers can study at other approved schools, Home Depot has a partnership with Bellevue University that offers the benefit of payment deferment to avoid out-of-pocket costs. Otherwise, workers use available financial aid and either pay out of pocket or use student loans for the remainder, and Home Depot reimburses within three months of a worker completing the approved courses.
Verizon offers a tuition assistance program that can cover both workers and their families and collaborates with Bellevue University to offer bachelor's and master's degree program options. Employees can choose from programs in fields such as education, science, healthcare, technology and business. While Verizon employees can choose a different school, the benefits of attending Bellevue go beyond just the payment deferment option to include higher tuition coverage for workers who choose that school.
For example, part-time workers attending Bellevue can get $8,000 yearly toward an approved degree program compared to $13,250 for full-time workers and $2,500 for family members. Assistance for other schools is limited to $4,000 annually for part-time workers and $8,000 for full-time workers, while family members get no benefits. Workers will have the tuition assistance applied toward any balance remaining on their tuition and related costs after other sources like federal financial aid.
Read More: Is Tuition Reimbursement Considered Income?
Partnering with Guild Education for the Live Better U program, Walmart allows their part- and full-time hourly employees and some salaried employees to pursue an undergraduate degree online and have the company pay all tuition, book and fee expenses. The program is open to those without existing bachelor's degrees and doesn't work for a master's degree. Eligibility starts on day one of employment.
Associates study at one of the schools in the Guild Education network and can choose from 30 online degree options available in areas like business, healthcare and technology. For those who don't want to earn a college degree, Walmart also pays for professional certificate and skilled trade programs.
7. Bank of America
Bank of America offers tuition assistance to employees who've worked with the company for six months or more and choose to study in a job-specific area. The company offers both prepaid vouchers for classes as well as a reimbursement option, and the annual benefit maxes out at $7,500 a year, where the amount over $5,250 would be taxable to the employee.
Workers can choose from degree programs from schools that are regionally or nationally accredited and certification courses that are offered through a recognized professional organization. Correspondence schools are excluded.
The bank requires that employees earn at least a B- at the graduate level or C- at the undergraduate level for them to offer tuition assistance. Employees also have to maintain good work performance to receive this benefit.
8. Best Buy
Best Buy has a college tuition reimbursement program available to full-time employees who've been with the company for six months or longer and work 32 hours or more weekly. Employees have to study in an area related to their job and can choose from individual courses as well as undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The program doesn't allow for tuition assistance if you already have a degree at that level, so you can't use it for a second bachelor's degree, for example.
Employees taking undergraduate courses can get $3,500 yearly compared to $5,250 yearly for those in graduate programs. Best Buy pays for the college tuition and book costs, and there's $325 allowed for undergraduate fees and $525 allowed for graduate fees. Workers get reimbursed after they finish their courses with at least a B- at the graduate level and a C- at the undergraduate level.
Like Walmart and Chipotle, Disney also has a partnership with Guild Education and offers 100 percent upfront payment of tuition through the Disney Aspire program to part- and full-time employees. Further, the company reimburses for any required books and fees that employees pay out of pocket.
Employees can study online at any of the schools in the Guild Education network and enroll in programs ranging from undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as skill-building courses. Disney doesn't require choosing a job-related program to qualify, so there's a lot of flexibility in meeting career goals and learning something new.
Read More: Federal Student Grants
McDonald's offers a tuition assistance program for qualified employees ranging from part-time hourly crew members to general managers. While managers get a maximum of $5,250 annually toward studying at an accredited school, lower-level workers such as floor supervisors and crew members get up to $2,500.
McDonald's requires that employees take advantage of other financial aid sources they qualify for such as federal grants and awarded scholarships before they start to cover the rest of the tuition, materials and fees. If an employee ends up needing student loans to cover expenses, that portion would qualify for tuition assistance.
There are specific requirements McDonald's employees will need to meet to qualify for the program, and these vary by type of position. For example, managers need to demonstrate a high level of performance and get approval through their supervisor. Hourly workers need to have worked for the company three months or longer, have a good performance level and work at least 15 hours weekly on average. McDonald's also checks workers' grade reports to decide on continuing with tuition assistance.
Following the lead of its competing retailer Walmart, Target works with Guild Education to offer debt-free college degrees along with other educational programs such as bootcamps and certificate programs. Target workers who want to take advantage of these tuition assistance benefits can study online to earn a credential in one of 250 areas and choose from over 40 accredited schools. Some examples of program majors include business management, design, supply chain management and computer science.
Both part- and full-time Target employees can participate and get full or partial coverage of tuition, fees and textbooks depending on whether they study at the undergraduate or graduate level. Undergraduate programs come with all the costs covered when employees study in a qualified program, while master's degree programs come with $10,000 of the annual tuition paid by Target. The company pays everything upfront so that employees don't have to worry about out-of-pocket costs.
Other Companies Offering College Benefits
Here are some of the many additional companies that offer programs that help employees pay for college:
- Chick-fil-A: Employees working for Chick-fil-A can take advantage of scholarship programs as well as receive a tuition discount when they choose from one of the restaurant's partner schools.
- Papa John's: The company's Dough & Degrees program offers partnerships with the University of Maryland Global Campus and Purdue University Global. Those working for a franchise can get assistance to study for around $5,000 a year, while corporate employees can take advantage of free courses.
- Wells Fargo: Through the educational benefits program, workers can get $5,000 annually reimbursed for college, while their children may get awarded scholarships of $1,000 to $3,000.
- AT&T: This telecom company has a tuition reimbursement program for part- and full-time hourly employees as well as managers, and benefits depend on the employee's status, region and union membership. Typically, the limit is $5,250 annually with part-time workers having 50 to 75 percent of their expenses considered eligible.
- Fidelity: Fidelity has multiple education assistance programs ranging from tuition reimbursement to student loan assistance. For example, workers can get $10,000 annually to earn a degree with 90 percent of tuition covered, and they can complete financial certifications with all expenses paid.
Read More: How to Apply for Financial Aid
- Starbucks: Careers – Education
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- Walmart: Walmart To Pay 100% of College Tuition and Books for Associates
- Walmart: Go Back to School for Less
- Guild Education: Disney Aspire
- Disney: Benefits
- Chipotle: Go Back to School Debt-Free. For Real.
- Target: Offering Debt-Free Degrees to More Than 340,000 Target Team Members? Now That’s a Smart Move
- Guild Education: Big News. Bigger Education Benefits.
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- The Home Depot: One of the Best Investments You Can Make Today
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- Bank of America: Tuition Assistance & Academic Support Program Questions & Answers
- Best Buy: Tuition Assistance Program Policy
- Chick-fil-A: Tuition Discounts for Chick-Fil-a Team Members
- Papa John's: Dough & Degrees
- Wells Fargo: Wells Fargo: Our Commitment to Employees
- CWA 3207: AT&T Non-Management Tuition Assistance Plan - Legacy AT&T, AT&T East, AT&T Midwest, AT&T Southwest and AT&T West CWA and IBEW Represented Employees and ALASCOM, Inc. Represented Employees
- Fidelity: 2021 Benefits Overview
Ashley Donohoe has written about business and technology topics since 2010. Having a Master of Business Administration degree, bookkeeping certification and experience running a small business and doing tax returns, she is knowledgeable about the tax issues individuals and businesses face. Other places featuring her business writing include Zacks, JobHero, LoveToKnow, Bizfluent, Chron and Study.com.