Originally, this article was going to be titled “Why I Love Starbucks.” As a former barista, I can say the company was good to me. Not only did I get cheap health insurance, great hours, and a flexible schedule, but I got something that really helped me graduate college debt-free: tuition reimbursement.
Yes, Starbucks gave me money to go to college.
It wasn’t much, but $1,000 goes a long way in saving you from college debt. Between my paycheck, tuition reimbursement, Pearson Accelerated Pathways savings, and some money from my parents (which I quickly paid back), I was able to graduate without a single student loan hanging over my head.
I could wax poetic, proclaiming the virtues of Starbucks—why it’s the perfect job for a college student, especially an Accelerated Pathways student—but I’ll save that for another post.
For now, it’s time to get smart about your job.
Simply put, tuition reimbursement programs are an employee benefit in which an employer agrees to pay a set amount of your educational expenses. Some companies hand out big bucks to employees, while others just pay a few hundred dollars toward school. Others offer scholarships to their employees’ children. The programs vary, so you’ll want to take some time and research your options.
You’ll want to remember that each company’s reimbursement program works differently. For example, Starbucks’ program allows students to pursue any major offered by ASU Online. Other companies, such as BP, offer assistance only to employees who pursue opportunities that benefit both the employee and the company. The bottom line is this: if you’re an aspiring pastry chef, for example, and accept a job at a financial services firm because it has a great tuition reimbursement program, you’ll want to make sure the program actually covers culinary school.
If you want to graduate college debt-free, you’ll have to work hard. Below is a list of 10 companies that offer full or partial educational assistance.
Apple provides employees with unspecified reimbursement toward approved educational expenses, including tuition. Career opportunities are available in their retail centers, in customer support, software services, design, and marketing.d.
BP’s tuition assistance program reimburses eligible employees up to 90% of their vocational and educational expenses, provided the employee receives approval before registering for the course. BP offers employment for students, recent graduates, and experienced professionals in communications, external affairs, engineering, ethics, and compliance, to name a few.
Discover offers fully-paid, online bachelor’s degrees to U.S.-based part-time, flex-time and full-time employees. Tuition is pre-paid directly to the university. Expenditures for books, supplies and other qualified fees are reimbursed. Individuals interested in working at Discover can apply for jobs in account support, financial services, cardmember services, and other departments.
Disney pays 100% of tuition to Disney Aspire network schools. Hourly, part-time and full-time employees are eligible to participate in the program. The company employs theme park staff, software engineers, accountants, animation experts, sales associates, and a variety of other professionals.
Home Depot offers tuition reimbursement of up to $6,000 per year for career-relevant education and pays up to $2,500 reimbursement per year for employees’ immediate family members. Employment opportunities are available at the company’s retail stores and corporate office.
Lowe’s provides up to $2,500 in tuition reimbursement per fiscal year for full-time employees who have been employed with the organization for more than 12 months. Similar to Home Depot, employment opportunities are available at both their corporate and retail locations.
Nike’s continuous learning benefits vary based on location, however tuition reimbursement programs are available through a variety of educational programs. Nike hires staff for numerous positions, such as sales associate, technical product manager, and data analyst.
Starbucks offers 100% tuition coverage for part-time and full-time employees toward first-time online bachelor degrees through Arizona State’s University. Positions are available at both their retail locations and its corporate office.
Target provides tuition reimbursement for all exempt and some non-exempt employees toward approved undergraduate, graduate, and MBA coursework. Annual program caps are set at $3,000 for undergraduate tuition, $4,000 per year toward graduate tuition, and $5,250 per year toward MBA tuition. Target offers positions in areas, such as in store management, merchandising, customer support, shipping, and human resources.
Verizon Wireless offers tuition assistance to part-time employees, full-time employees and their family members. Their VZTAP program reimburses up to $8,000 per year for full-time staff and up to $4,000 per year for part-time staff. However, employees who pursue their degrees through Belleview University receive additional benefits. Under their joint partnership agreement, full-time Verizon employees who attend Bellevue University receive up to $13,250 per year, part-time employees receive up to $8,000 per year, and their family members may receive up to $2,500 per year. Verizon offers positions in sales, marketing technology, account management, customer support, supply chain logistics, and other departments.
“But wait,” you may say. “I already have a job, and it’s not with one of these companies! What about me?”
Never fear—there are always options for saving money on college, no matter where you work!
If you’ve already got a job, ask your employer about tuition reimbursement. Your company may have a program you simply don’t know about.
And if you’re really interested in living the debt-free lifestyle, consider completing college through an affordable college program such as Accelerated Pathways. Accelerated Pathways is an exciting way to approach your college education—one that doesn’t tie you down with a location, schedule, or debt—giving you more freedom and flexibility than any traditional college campus has to offer.
Click here to learn more about how Accelerated Pathways saves you time and money on your bachelor’s degree, no matter where you work.
Caitlin Anderson believes in finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. A former Accelerated Pathways employee, she now works as Lois Lane for a major tech company. She lives in Portland with her husband and their puppy.