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Save on tuition aid by managing colleges like vendors

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Most midsize and large employers run their run tuition-assistance benefits more like entitlement programs than strategic investments. They don’t hold schools accountable for delivering educational programs that help improve the bottom line.

Tuition-assistance budgets will increase as baby boomers retire and younger employees need education
and training to fill the vacancies. Tuition aid budgets currently account for 10% to 12% of overall training costs, says Jeanne Meister, a corporate learning consultant and former VP of market development at Accenture Learning.

“That (increase) could grow out of proportion unless employers put the brakes on and manage tuition assistance. It will be a big issue in five years,” says Meister.

Here are six practical tips to help you manage tuition-assistance programs like vendor relationships.

  1. Determine the skills and education that your organization requires, then negotiate with institutions that are willing to meet those needs.
  2. Ask colleges whether they have tailored educational programs to specific companies. Request references.
  3. As with a vendor, work with colleges to come up with metrics that measure the impact of tuition-assistance programs on retention, performance and promotions.
  4. Explore the possibility of granting college credit to certain company- training programs.
  5. Negotiate discounts based on the number of employees who attend the college and the volume of
    classes they take.
  6. Select a group of education partners and manage them like a health care network. Employees who take courses within the network receive additional discounts on tuition and fees for themselves and family members.

“That’s the direction that companies should go, rather than pay a blank check to colleges,” says Meister.

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