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5 Companies That Pay for College—and How to Find Others

If you’re thinking of going back to school—perhaps to pursue a first or new degree—you might prioritize employers with tuition assistance or reimbursement.

Written by Dori Zinn / September 23, 2022

Quick Bites

  • Working for a company that pays for college can limit how much you borrow in student loans.
  • Many national and international companies offer this, but so do local businesses and organizations.
  • There’s no one standard way to offer college payment assistance, as this benefit looks different for each company.

Most people look for a job with great pay and health insurance. For some, that’s enough. For others, you might want to explore other benefits, like companies that pay for college.

Some companies offer student loan repayment assistance. This is when your job makes payments on your student loans to help you become education debt-free sooner. Usually, it’s a matching program up to a certain amount.

But other companies will help pay for college courses while you’re still enrolled—sometimes even if you’re not still employed. This could limit or entirely remove your need for student loans.

Inside this article

  1. What is tuition reimbursement?
  2. How tuition reimbursement works
  3. Companies that pay for college
  4. More companies that help out

What is tuition reimbursement?

Tuition reimbursement is when a company covers a portion—or sometimes, all—of a worker’s college tuition costs.

“It all depends on the field, the company, the size of the company, the compensation in question, the skillset and experience of the employee and many other factors,” says Natalia M. Zimnoch, a registered investment advisor with LifeMark Securities. “You may be able to search this criterion on job websites or inquire about them as a part of your interview process.”

Reimbursement looks different for every worker and employer, every sector and industry. For instance, some companies might cover tuition up to a certain amount while others may restrict reimbursement based on the type of courses you take. Other companies might offer this benefit to full-time workers and not necessarily to part-time or hourly workers. It varies quite a bit.

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How tuition reimbursement works

Since there’s no one standard across the board, reimbursement looks different for every company.

“It all depends on how the company does [its] accounting,” says Zimnoch. “Typically, the company will directly pay the college or financial institution to avoid any bookkeeping or accounting errors, or misuse of funds that are meant for education costs.”

But some companies and organizations opt for reimbursement rather than direct payment for many reasons. For one thing, your company might limit the types of courses you receive reimbursement for (maybe the courses need to be specific to your role at your employer or your growth trajectory). And if you happen to drop a course by the deadline, you’re not on the hook for those credit hours—and neither is your company.

Most companies have strings attached to tuition reimbursement and because there are so many different rules each company can set up, it’s important to review them before signing up for classes.

“Companies require tuition reimbursement payback agreements to deter employees from using their education and training to get a job working elsewhere,” says Zimnoch. For instance, if your company says you’re responsible for paying back that money if you leave within a year of using it, your reimbursement could turn into a loan.

Zimnoch says this is a way for companies to legally protect themselves and it gives them access to workers for at least a set time. Other companies require you to work for them over a set duration before receiving this benefit. So it might not kick in on day one.

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Companies that pay for college

1. Target

More than 340,000 full-time and part-time workers are eligible to receive assistance from a select list of college degrees, certifications and programs. Students can get up to $5,250 for undergraduate degrees and up to $10,000 for master’s degrees each year paid directly to their academic institution. This means you don’t have to get reimbursed—Target pays the school for you.[1]

2. Disney

The Walt Disney Company has its own education and career development program—Disney Aspire—that offers 100% of tuition paid up front (not reimbursed). The program is available to both full- and part-time employees and offers about 70 different degrees and programs. Online courses and degrees are also available, and Disney also covers the cost of books and other fees.[2] 

3. Starbucks

Full- and part-time partners (employees) who meet the eligibility requirements can get tuition reimbursement from Starbucks. All courses are online through Arizona State University. While tuition and fees are fully covered upfront, you’re on the hook for books, computers and other supplies. This program is available to employees who have worked at least 240 hours over three consecutive months.[3]

4. Chipotle

Chipotle covers 100% of tuition costs upfront for select undergraduate, master’s and high school courses available to full- and part-time workers. All courses are self-paced and online from a selection of hand-picked accredited universities, but they’re based on Chipotle’s specific sectors, like agriculture, culinary and hospitality and supply chain management.[4-5]

5. UPS

Through its Earn and Learn program, UPS tuition reimbursement gives part-time workers up to $5,250 per calendar year and a maximum amount of $25,000. They don’t limit courses or degrees and the program is available at most UPS locations across the country. Eligibility starts the day you’re hired.[6]

Where to find companies that pay for college

The vast majority of companies that offer tuition payments or reimbursements are big companies with a presence all over the country or world. Others include Amazon, Boeing, Fidelity, Bank of America and so many more.

But that doesn’t mean these companies are the only types to offer education benefits. You might find city and state jobs that offer to pay for college, along with local businesses that want to attract and retain community talent. Keep in mind that their programs will also come with their own set of eligibility requirements and restrictions. For instance, they might pay you as reimbursement and not upfront tuition payments. Or they might restrict the type of classes you can take by courses that are directly relevant to your job track or industry.

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When you’re looking for potential jobs and employers, see if they publicly share education assistance programs. Look for features like:

  • Eligibility requirements: What do you need to do as a worker to qualify for this program? What are you required to do while enrolled in the program? How long do you need to work for the company after you’ve completed the coursework?

  • Tuition coverage: Does the company pay your school upfront, or do you need to apply for tuition reimbursement? Does it only cover tuition, or are books, supplies and fees covered as well? 

  • Other benefits: Does the program give you time to study for courses or block out time for class and testing? What schools, programs and courses are eligible, or is it very limited to what the company outlines?

“Make sure you like your company, your co-workers and the path you’re on before investing the time for additional education that your employer foots the bill for,” says Zimnoch.

Remember you might have to stay at a company for a set amount of time or you could risk repaying the tuition bill they originally paid for. Take this step only after you understand how it will impact your future.

Article Sources
  1. “Offering Debt-Free Degrees to More Than 340,000 Target Team Members? Now That’s a Smart Move,” Target, Aug. 4, 2021. https://corporate.target.com/article/2021/08/target-tuition-assistance.
  2. “Disney Aspire,” The Walt Disney Company, https://disney.guildeducation.com/partner.
  3. “Starbucks College Achievement Plan,” Starbucks, https://www.starbucks.com/careers/working-at-starbucks/education/.
  4. “Chipotle Education Benefit, Chipotle,” https://chipotle.guildeducation.com/partner/.
  5. “Chipotle To Offer Free Degrees In Agriculture, Culinary, And Hospitality To Employees,” Chipotle, April 8, 2021. https://newsroom.chipotle.com/2021-04-08-Chipotle-To-Offer-Free-Degrees-In-Agriculture-Culinary-And-Hospitality-To-Employees.
  6. “Earn & Learn,” UPS, https://www.jobs-ups.com/earn-and-learn.

About the Authors

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn

Dori has covered personal finance for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Forbes, CNET, TIME, Yahoo, and others.

Full bio

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