Does Your Tuition Assistance Program Make the Grade?
Organizations spend twenty billion dollars annually on employee education but most haven't changed their approach to learning in the last decade, laments Dr. Womack. The recession, she adds, has made CEOs and CFOs step back and take a hard look at their tuition assistance programs.
Such introspection is important. After all, done right, says Dr. Womack, tuition assistance benefits both employer and employee. A veteran of higher education, she's spent more than two decades helping adult professionals select college programs, and knows well the challenges of such undertakings. Today, she is Director of Adult Education Counseling for Tuition Advisory Services (TAS), a Bright Horizons solution at work, which offers a comprehensive managed education program that enables organizations to take a more strategic approach to tuition management.
Six out of ten companies already have a learning program in place, says Dr. Womack, but many operate inefficiently. The job of TAS, she adds, is to look at such tuition assistance as a strategic investment rather than simply a benefit'or worse yet, a cost. 'By maximizing your tuition investment, she says, 'an effective tuition-management program like TAS will not only save you money, it will actually pay for itself.'
Dr. Womack recommends organizations follow a four-step approach to leverage their tuition assistance program:
StreamlineMany organizations still process paper applications manually.
A better bet: automate. Such initiatives may seem simple, but they allow organizations to keep track of exactly where tuition dollars are going, which can transform a tuition-assistance program from a hit-or-miss proposition into an efficient business strategy.
OptimizeSaving tuition dollars is possible for those who know where to look.
Knowledgeable academic counselors can minimize costs by pointing students to opportunities for transfer and job-experience credit. Organizations can cut costs further by building partnerships and discount programs with colleges and universities.
AlignThe best programs align employee needs with organizational goals. By establishing approved courses, tuition assistance builds a workforce's relevant knowledge base, thereby adding value for both the employee and the organization.
MeasureKnow your ROI. Dr. Womack advises organizations to measure and track how educational assistance impacts graduation rates, career progression, retention, and recruitment. Organizations that have adapted have seen the payoffs firsthand.
Elizabeth Kueter, Senior Project Manager for Rockwell Collins, calls partnering with Tuition Advisory Services invaluable to enhancing recruitment, retention, and morale. 'Tuition assistance has always been a popular benefit. In fact, 8% of Rockwell Collins' 20,000 employees participate in the program,' says Kueter. "We didn't have the expertise to make the benefit more robust, remain competitive, and include benchmarks so we looked to Tuition Advisory Services for assistance."
Through TAS, Rockwell Collins' employees are now able to meet one-on-one with academic advisors. 'The counselor will help them choose between top-ranking schools, decide if they prefer an online program as opposed to a brick-and-mortar program, and determine whether there is real-life applicability to the program,' says Keuter.
Dr. Womack believes that HR professionals need to move tuition assistance to the top of their agenda. In today's economy, she says, companies are challenged to do more with less.
A well-managed tuition assistance program can become a key component of an organization's employee development strategy bringing maximum impact to the organization and its employees. 'A few strategic adjustments' she says, 'can elevate the entire value of the program.'