Fortune 500 Companies Picking Up the Tuition Tab

Can’t Pay for College? Top Companies That Foot the Bill

When times are tough, companies cut back. Employees see less perks, fewer freebies, and, perhaps the toughest pill to swallow, the sudden loss of valuable education and training programs. Businesses that once offered solid continuing education packages to encourage employee advancement now have HR removing these programs on the DL.

Despite the lingering effects of recession, some companies remain dedicated to employee investment, most notably by maintaining or increasing tuition reimbursement. Such programs often cover in-state tuition, books, commuting, and other fees to keep the workforce happy, well trained, and productive. Top companies believe tuition assistance to be a fantastic way to both attract and retain talent.

Types of tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement programs are as varied as the companies that offer them. Some extend the benefit not just to employees, but also to spouses and children. Others limit the benefit to specific institutions with which the company has a partnership. Some companies pay your tuition bill directly, while others require you to make the initial payment, and then reimburse you upon successful course completion.

Despite this variation, tuition reimbursement programs often share the following elements:

  • The benefit is contingent upon a maintaining a “C” average or higher. Some reimburse tuition at a higher percentage for higher grades.
  • Support is often capped at $5,250 per employee per year. Per IRS regulations, tuition benefits over $5,250 become taxable income, so most employers stay within the IRS limit.
  • You may be required to stay employed at the company for a certain period of time, usually several years, or risk having to pay back the benefit.
  • Course of study may be restricted to work-related topics, or learning that will assist the employee’s growth within the company.
  • If enrolled in a degree program, you may be required to finish within a certain time frame.

Departments dedicated to human resources and/or employee benefits usually handle tuition assistance, so if you’re interested, that’s where to start. If someone else is going to pay for you to go to college, how can you pass that up?

While companies large and small offer some form of tuition assistance, those on the larger end of the spectrum generally have time-tested (and sometimes more lucrative) programs in place. The following 25 Fortune 500s have made employee education a priority, continuing to support and invest in those who make their organizations tick.

Company Logo
Company Name
Annual Revenue *
Tuition Reimbursement Information
1.Walmart

$446,950

Employees and their eligible family members may receive up to 15% of the cost of courses at American Public University (APU), an online school, and may earn up to 45% of the requirements for an associate’s degree by getting credit for on-the-job learning. The Walmart Associate Scholarship is also available for employees pursuing a post-secondary degree at an accredited U.S. institution. Maximum annual award amounts range from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on the degree being pursued. The company also offers a scholarship program for children of employees.

2.Exxon Mobil

$452,926

Exxon Mobil’s Educational Refund Program reimburses eligible employees for tuition, fees, and books related to courses that maintain or improve work skills.

3.Chevron

$245,621

Employees at Chevron enjoy an education assistance support benefit that pays up to 75% of the cost (including tuition, textbooks, lab fees, and registration and administration fees) for approved courses.

4.Phillips 66

$237,272

Phillips 66 reimburses up to 90% of tuition and other related expenses up to $4,000 per calendar year for non-advanced degrees and $8,000 per calendar year for advanced degrees (beyond Bachelor’s). The company also awards 66 college scholarships of $16,000 each to children of employees annually.

5.Berkshire Hathaway

$143,688

The company’s 55 subsidiaries range from Geico Insurance to See’s Candies, and all offer some form of tuition reimbursement.

6.Apple

$108,249

Eligible Apple employees receive up to $5,000 per year in tuition assistance.

7.General Motors

$150,276

General Motors offers several tuition assistance programs, which vary depending on employee status (union, hourly, salary, retired). The UAW-GM Tuition Assistance Plan (TAP), for example, provides financial assistance to United Auto Workers union-represented employees for attending approved licensed or accredited schools. For Employees in the company’s engineering or manufacturing fields who wish to earn accredited graduate degrees and certificates, GM covers all program tuition, registration fees, admission costs and reference books.

8.General Electric

$147,616

GE invests over $1 billion a year in employee training. Benefits include reimbursement for job-related courses, or loans to finance employee or dependent education.

9.Valero Energy

$125,095

Among its benefits, Valero offers employees educational assistance to support for professional and personal development.

10.Ford Motor

$136,264

Tuition assistance programs vary depending on whether an employee is salaried or not. Salaried employees receive up to $6,000 annually for job-related study, with additional funding is available to those pursuing MBA programs. UAW-Ford union employees receive pre-paid tuition of up to $5,000 per calendar year for approved courses leading to any degree ranging from Associate’s to Doctorate. A scholarship fund is also in play for children of UAW-Ford employees.

11.AT&T

$126,723

Up to $5,250 is available annually for eligible full-time salaried AT&T employees to help cover education costs that have been approved by the company. Program participants may be reimbursed up to a maximum of $20,000 for courses leading to an approved undergraduate degree and up to $25,000 for courses leading up to an approved graduate degree. Union employees also receive tuition aid.

12.Fannie Mae

$137,451

Employee benefits include the Assistance for College Education (ACE) Program.

13.CVS Caremark

$107,750

CVS offers tuition reimbursement to full-time employees.

14.McKesson

$112,084

McKesson will reimburse $5,250 of tuition annually for full-time employees in all business units, with no lifetime maximum. In FY12, McKesson disbursed $3 million toward tuition assistance for the 940 employees who participated in this benefit. In addition, all employees and their immediate families are offered discounted tuition costs and shorter time to degree completion through McKesson’s partnership with Kaplan University.

15.Verizon Communications

$110,875

Verizon provides employees with up to $8,000 annually to fund higher-education studies that enhance their careers at the company. In 2012, more than 23,000 employees across the company benefited from the program.

16.J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

$110,838

J.P. Morgan Chase offers tuition assistance to “high-performing employees” and study must be work-related.

17.Cardinal Health

$102,644

Employees who work at least 20 hours per week are eligible to participate in the Tuition Reimbursement Program. Undergraduate courses are reimbursed up to $5,250 per calendar year and do not need to be job-related. Two graduate courses are reimbursed per semester/quarter up to $5,250 per calendar year, and must be approved for reimbursement.

18.Bank of America Corp.

$115,074

Associates receive tuition reimbursement of up to $2,000 each year for undergraduate courses and $4,000 for graduate study. A company scholarship program also offers financial assistance to dependent children of associates.

19.Kroger

$90,374

Kroger offers various tuition assistance programs, depending on the employee’s status, where he or she is employed, and course of study.

20.Express Script Holding

$46,128

Employees at Express Scripts are reimbursed up to $5,250 each calendar year toward tuition and fees at an accredited university or college.

21.Wells Fargo

$87,597

Wells Fargo will reimburse full-time employees up to $5,000 annually, and part-time employees up to $2,500 annually for eligible tuition expenses.

22.United Health Group

$101,862

United Health Employees who work full time or at least 20 hours per week can qualify for up to $5,250 per calendar year for job-related coursework in accredited programs.

23.Comcast

$55,842

Comcast offers full-time and some part-time employees tuition reimbursement up to $5,750 per year for approved degrees programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

24.Oracle

$35,622

Oracle’s education assistance plan reimburses up to $5,250 per calendar year. Regular, full-time employees with demonstrated performance are eligible, and must maintain a B – average or better. All coursework and programs must be job-related.

25.United Parcel Service (UPS)

$54,100

UPS’s “Earn and Learn” program covers $3,000 per year in education fee assistance, with a $15,000 lifetime ceiling. Employees in management positions may qualify for $4,000 per year and a $20,000 lifetime maximum. Employees receive these benefits upon hire, but must work at one of UPS’s 51 “Earn and Learn” locations.

* in millions