The average college student in 2021 pays over $35,000 annually in tuition and related educational expenses. This figure suggests that many learners need significant financial aid if they want to avoid debt.
Fortunately, students can take advantage of financial aid opportunities from several sources, including employers, governmental agencies, and nonprofits.
This article introduces these and other opportunities that students can use for college tuition assistance.
Professions that Pay Students Back
The federal government supports professionals in the healthcare, education, and public service sectors with loan repayment programs and other financial aid opportunities. Professionals interested in this form of college tuition assistance must follow specific guidelines, such as possessing a specific job title or working in a high-need area.
Careers that Pay for School
Bank of America
Bank of America provides up to $7,500 annually in college tuition assistance. Participants select a prepaid voucher or tuition reimbursement. Requirements include six months' employment with Bank of America and a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. Interested workers should speak with a work supervisor before signing up for the program.
Full-time employees with at least six months' experience may qualify for Best Buy's college tuition assistance program. The company reimburses up to $3,500 annually for undergraduates and up to $5,250 annually for graduate students. Candidates must hold a minimum 2.0 GPA and submit the program application within 30 days of enrollment.
Boeing offers tuition assistance to all employees pursuing a STEM degree or completing a certificate program at an accredited college or university. The company does not cap the amount of tuition assistance that employees may receive.
Disney partners with a network of U.S. colleges and universities to provide employees with free undergraduate and graduate degrees. Students in high school completion programs, skilled trade diploma programs, and language learning programs also qualify.
The Home Depot
The Home Depot provides up to $5,000 annually in tuition reimbursement to full-time salaried employees. Full-time hourly and part-time workers qualify for $1,500-$3,000. In all cases, the program caps reimbursement at 50% of tuition. The Home Depot requires a minimum 2.5 GPA in each course and may reduce the reimbursement amount if students receive other financial aid.
The Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP) offers all employees free tuition at Arizona State University. The program awards students additional funding after they exhaust federal grants. Starbucks employees can sign up for SCAP by applying to ASU.
Target employees earning a degree at an accredited community college or four-year school receive aid based on their course load. The company also helps employees earn a GED certificate. Additionally, the Target Credit Union offers college graduates low-interest refinancing options.
UPS' Earn and Learn Program awards part-time employees earning a college degree up to $25,000 in education assistance. Workers in any role may participate and apply funding toward in-person or online courses. UPS uses this program to promote from within, allowing employees to advance their career.
Walgreens' pharmacy education assistance programs encourage workers in all positions to prepare for a career as a licensed pharmacist. The pre-pharmacy program awards up to $2,500 to employees with at least 1,040 hours of work experience. Walgreens provides additional funding to pharmacy upperclassmen who agree to a two-year work requirement after graduation.
*Wells Fargo employees may qualify for up to $5,000 annually in tuition reimbursement. Workers should speak with a work supervisor to learn about eligibility criteria. The company also offers this benefit to employees' children, who can receive $1,000-$3,000 annually.
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The Benefits of Tuition and Training Programs
Professionals can take advantage of tuition and training programs to advance their careers. In private paid training programs, workers receive a salary while learning how to perform their job. Employers may also sponsor workforce development programs that provide relevant training. Private paid training and workforce development programs do not charge employees tuition or fees.
Governmental agencies and private organizations also sponsor training programs in multiple subjects. Eligibility criteria and application deadlines vary, so individuals with questions should contact the sponsoring organization or agency.
Degree Training and Workforce Development Programs
A U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Program, ApprenticeshipUSA encourages employers to create apprenticeship opportunities. Companies and organizations that follow federal guidelines can receive financial incentives to implement these programs. In 2019, more than 25,000 employers nationwide brought on approximately 250,000 apprentices. Eligibility requirements vary by employer.
Another DOL program, Job Corps provides free vocational training and education to U.S. citizens and permanent residents ages 16-24. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and explain how training will improve their financial situation and quality of life. As of 2021, Job Corps offers dozens of training programs in multiple fields, such as advanced manufacturing, automotives, and construction.
My Next Move helps people from all professional backgrounds explore more than 900 careers. The organization offers guides for Americans transitioning from military to civilian life. Individuals need not make an account or possess U.S. citizenship to explore these and other services.
Private Paid Training Programs
Student Employment Nationwide Workforce Development
State Workforce Development
CareerSource Florida assists the state’s residents with researching different careers and industries. The organization offers training and education programs, career development workshops, apprenticeship programs, and job fairs. Interested Floridians can access these resources on the CareerSource Florida website or visit one of the organization’s 24 offices.
New York City Teaching Fellows
New York City launched Teaching Fellows in 2000 to increase the number of highly qualified K-12 educators. Candidates need a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Fellows must complete preservice before enrolling in a master’s program at one of 11 partner universities. New York City pays for approximately 66% of fellows’ tuition.
Texas Workforce Solutions
Texas Workforce Solutions hosts more than 180 offices statewide. These offices help people access training programs, polish their resumes, and sign up for career development initiatives. Workers and college students with children ages 12 and younger receive additional resources, such as public assistance programs.
Washington Opportunity Grants
Washington Opportunity Grants help low-income learners pay for college. Eligibility requirements include the FAFSA results, Washington state residency, and a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. The grant pays for up to 45 undergraduate credits, and learners receive $1,000 to cover books and supplies.
West Philadelphia Skills Initiative
The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative offers training programs to help unemployed Philadelphians prepare for a new career. Candidates must complete an online application and an interview. Approximately 95% of participants find a new job soon after graduation.
Associate Director of Financial Aid
Expert Advice for Students Looking to Save
Q. What types of jobs are available to students seeking to qualify for tuition remission?
If you want to get tuition remission by working for a school, there are all kinds of jobs, in all kinds of fields, not always limited to the student’s field of study. It depends on the school. Almost every college or university website has a Work Here or Careers link on the homepage — that is a good place to start. So are industry news publications such as Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, etc. Most schools also have fellowships and researchships, where the student does some academic work or assists a professor with research.
Q. Do you find that many incoming students know about out-of-the-box options, other than traditional loans and grants, for tuition assistance?
No, but in my experience, many students (and parents of students as well) don’t explore their options further than asking friends and mainstream news. I suppose that any mainstream news coverage of college affordability at all is a trend that shows public awareness and interest. Just the fact that we are discussing exploring creative alternatives shows a growing interest in alternative options to traditional school financing.
Q. What is the best way for students to find out about these options? When should they begin looking and planning for them?
Start exploring colleges at the beginning of junior year of high school. Research their websites carefully, especially the financial aid and career sections, for creative options. Also, students can look for employment awards, like fellowships, on idealist.org. By the beginning of senior year, you should have your list narrowed down to a few top choices. Just around the time that the FAFSA opens, which will be in October, is a great time to talk with admissions and financial aid professionals at the colleges of choice about any alternative financing options.
It also helps to volunteer, join a college prep program during high school, like Upward Bound (or in San Francisco, we also have nonprofits like SMART, PACT, Inc., College Track, etc.), and network and make connections with people throughout high school. By gaining more experience and connections, you will be the first to find the creative opportunities.
The opportunities are in industries across the board and always changing. Right now, industries that make a lot of money, like healthcare and business, tend to have more reimbursement, and generally are more for graduate students than for undergraduates. Education is always a good bet, because they can provide this with no overhead, or through agreements with other schools. They want their employees to be educated, so they are motivated to help with obstacles like cost. Most of the time, the employer’s HR department is responsible for tuition remission/reimbursement or student loan reimbursement benefits, and they would work with the billing offices of colleges and universities, not the financial aid office.
uition reimbursement. For example, Nurse Corps gives nurses working in underserved hospitals up to 85% reimbursement for three years of service. Do these organizations work directly with financial aid offices within universities?”]
Q. Are there programs at the University of San Francisco specifically for low-income, at-risk or minority students, outside of federal and private loans and grants?
Yes, we have a Tuition Discount Grant for students with financial need who meet minimum academic standards. Various academic departments have scholarships and fellowships, depending on what their budget looks like or what grants the faculty have received at the time. For admitted students, we also have a program for first-generation college students called Muscat Scholars that provides all kinds of services, like academic advising, financial aid, and peer support, all the way through to graduation.
Q. Are many of the students at USF working full time at companies who give work-study or training options? What might those options look like for a USF student, in terms of hours a week compared to earning potential?
Yes, mostly adult students — graduates, transfers and we have a degree-completion program in our School of Management for mostly returning adult students. Several USF employees work full time while earning their degrees. I can’t speak to the earning potential, but USF is quite academically rigorous. My program took up probably 15-25 hours per week.
Q. Why might employers benefit from offering tuition reimbursement programs?
Higher education teaches us to think differently and creatively, and gives us new experience and ideas to bring back to our jobs, giving companies more options, and more pathways to success.
Naomi Follett, Associate Director of Financial Aid
Naomi has worked for nonprofit organizations since she was 11 years old, and has been a tutor and mentor to at-risk youth. She was the director of student services at the Institute for Clinical Social Work in Chicago, where she brought financial aid operations up to complete compliance and wrote several sections of ICSW’s Academic Quality Improvement Plan.
Thomas Broderick is a freelance writer and the owner of Broderick Writer LLC. He creates study guides, informational websites, and blog posts for clients in the education field. Thomas is also a published author of over 20 short stories and a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
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