Personal Finance Tip of the Week: Take Advantage of Employer Education Reimbursement

Earning your college degree while working is a smart career move. It increases your value to your employer, and it improves your career trajectory.

By continuing to work while getting your degree, you can maintain your income, reduce your reliance on loans, and if your employer offers a Tuition Assistance Program, you could even come out ahead. Tuition Assistance Program is a program, generally run through an employer’s human resources department, where employees can take college courses paid for by that employer. According to the IRS, you can exclude up to $5,250 of educational assistance benefits each year. This means your employer will not include those benefits with your wages, tips, and other compensation shown on your Form W-2. This also means that you do not have to include these benefits on your income tax return.

If your job offers a program like this, make sure you do as much research as possible and start with your HR department. Here are some important questions you want to ask them:
• What kind of college courses are eligible? Undergraduate or graduate? Credit-bearing or non-credit bearing? Are online college classes acceptable?
• How are college courses reimbursed? Does the employer pay for the course up front? Or will you need to pay the tuition first and request reimbursement upon course completion? To whom will you submit the request for reimbursement? On a semester basis? On a per-course basis?
• Is there a GPA requirement? What happens if you fail a class or must drop out?

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