ABCDs of tuition reimbursement

Other companies may offer tiered reimbursement. For example, you may be reimbursed 100 percent for an A, 75 percent for a B and 50 percent for a C.

It's a rare employer that forks over dough for an F.

In order to receive your money, you'll typically need to present proof of completion, your grade and a receipt that proves you paid out-of-pocket.

That's how it works at StoreyManseau, a small marketing firm based in Concord, N.H.

"We covered Web site design for a graphic designer on our staff," says Laurie Storey-Manseau, the firm's founder. "I had worked at companies (much larger than us) before starting StoreyManseau, and had this as a benefit. It helped pay for part of my master's degree and helped advance my career."

Jones says it's important to remember your responsibility for making sure you receive reimbursement.

"It is up to the individual employee to fill out the forms and present everything for reimbursement," says Jones of his experience with Ball Aerospace and Technologies.

"Otherwise, it's your money lost."

'C' is for contractual obligations 
Look out for the fine print. Some employers require you to commit to staying with the company for a certain number of years after you've finished your education.

Moving on before fulfilling the commitment may require you to pay back all educational assistance.

At Holiday World, tuition reimbursement is offered with the understanding that the participating employee will use new skills to build the current business, not to leave for another job.

So, any Holiday World employee who leaves or resigns within two years of receiving tuition reimbursement must repay tuition.

Ask the HR department what happens if you leave before your time's up. Do you repay the full amount or a percentage?

Also ask about other rules. For example, if you're expected to stay on for one year -- in exchange for class coverage -- when does the clock start on fulfilling that year-long requirement?

Does it begin within a year of filing paperwork, within a year of the first class day or within a year of receiving reimbursement money?


'D' is for degrees covered 
Chat with your manager about which classes or what degree you'd like to pursue, and how your educational goals fit in with your current or future position.

Many people assume that some classes won't meet their employer's requirements, but that's not necessarily so, says Jamie C. Samans of Arlington, Va.

Samans has benefited from his employer's generous tuition program for almost three years.

"If underwater basket weaving 210 -- or philosophy or music appreciation -- meets a distribution requirement for a degree program, you'll get the approval," says Samans, who recommends documenting how the class fulfills the curriculum.

Tips for convincing your employer
Businesses of all sizes offer tuition reimbursement. But some may need a little convincing before signing off on your class schedule.

Don't give up -- it's possible to convince your employer that compensating for classes will pay off in the long term. Especially if you do everything right.

For example, one employee's homework really paid off at, a search engine optimization company based in New York.

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