What's In a Name? A $1 Million Tuition Program Strategy

strategy and planning for tuition program success
If you've watched behind-the-scenes coverage of big sporting events like the Olympics, chances are you've heard athletes talking about visualization - creating the kind of success they want by clearly seeing it first.

Whether or not you endorse mental imagery, there's a good argument to be made for thinking about similar approaches - albeit in more concrete form - as a way to implement business strategies in an organization.

Think about it: when you're creating a business strategy (using tuition assistance to support business objectives, for example), the question you need to ask isn't, "What is it?" You need to ask about the end game: "What do we want it to do?" Seeing the answer to that second question is the best way to determine whether or not you'll realize your investment later.

Seeing the Endgame: A New Tuition Program Strategy

A great illustration of this comes from PepsiCo. Back in 2012, the company had an education program that existed as a company perk. It was part of a strong benefits package, but it received relatively little attention. EdAssist helped them talk about overhauling their tuition program. And in our conversations with PepsiCo, it became clear they knew they were missing an opportunity to positively impact their employees and their business. They wanted to use their tuition benefit strategically.

They already had a program that would help employees pay for classes. What they wanted was a tool to reflect the supportive PepsiCo culture, attract and keep employees (those all-important recruitment and retention goals), and support their growing need for employee training and development (to keep up in the fast-paced global economy and avoid those oft-discussed skills gaps).

First, we worked together to define the goals and create a tangible illustration of what they wanted their program to be. And that came from something simple: a name change. From Tuition Reimbursement, PepsiCo's benefit became Education Assistance Program. A small alteration, but a way to not only visualize the bigger goal, but to show the rest of the company what they wanted the program to be.

Picturing Your Program's Success

The new name was the launch point for major change; the starting line for rethinking every aspect of the program, based on what they wanted it to achieve. With their clear endgame in place, we were able to create a strategy to get there: adult educational advising to help employees create cost-effective degree programs that were in line with company goals; tuition reductions at regionally accredited schools  to save money; clear reporting to track program policy compliance and give intelligence on what employees were studying and how many were using the program.

Defining the program also had the domino effect of changing the way employees saw it. Within the span of a year, this little-noticed program moved from being a simple benefit to becoming a bona fide Education Assistance Program with all the requisite benefits:

  • Greater enthusiasm for the program
  • More than $1 million in savings through compliance in the first year
  • More than $130K savings through tuition discounts
You can read about all the payoffs here. The end result was a cost-efficient tuition program strategy and education program that served company goals and supported employees' careers and as a result, company culture. That's everything PepsiCo had on its checklist.

And while some might argue it's still tuition assistance (true), visualizing and mapping the wish list allowed it to accomplish so much more.
strategy and planning for tuition program success

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