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Finances & Money

Asking the boss for more tuition money

At the end of this summer semester, I’ll be halfway done with my masters degree. I started in September 2007 with 2 classes in the fall then spring, and just one this summer. I have to say that taking 2 classes and working full-time is stressful, but I’m managing the workload. I will also admit that I’ve become a less fun, less patient and less friendly person (to strangers and friends alike) due to the stress.

My employer covers $5,200 per year of tuition and books. Unfortunately, each class in my program is now $2,600, so I use it all up in the beginning of the year. The total program, without books, will cost just shy of $26,000.

Due to the way I’ve planned out the program, I only have to pony up $13,000 of my own money, so getting a respected masters degree for half-price isn’t too bad. But it is tough to shell out $7,800 of my own money this year in addition to all our home projects, regular expenses, and now a big trip to Israel in November.

So I decided to go up the chain of command and see what else my company can do for me.

Asking for more money

My direct supervisor is out of the office this week, and her boss, which happens to be a company vice president, is on-site in her place. My boss can’t do much for me in the way of side-stepping company policy or offering additional incentives, so I decided to shoot straight for the skies by asking the vice president for more tuition money.

Although I got a raise that will significantly help with the cost of tuition, I consider that as more of a cost-of-living increase. I still need help with the $5,200 left this year until the cycle starts over in January. I asked the VP if there’s any way the company can provide more tuition assistance, not expecting much of a response.

The boss replied that the company no longer gives cash bonuses, which he would have used to offset the tuition (probably not all of it). Instead, to avoid tax situations, the company now provides other incentives like gift cards that can be used to buy stuff. Well that doesn’t help me.

But he added that the site they go through used to offer American Express gift cards, which could be used like debit cards. Since my school accepts CC payments, I could use them to pay tuition. He’s not sure if they still offer AmEx cards since people used them to sidestep the tax requirements (or something), but he’ll let me know.

So in the end, I’m not sure what the company can do to help, but it was worth the shot. I know the VP wouldn’t look down on me for asking, but I just needed to build up the nerve to ask. The lesson here is that you usually can’t get anything extra without asking for it. If you need a raise, ask for it. If you want a bonus, ask for it. Don’t expect your boss to be a mind reader or even consider putting you in for more money unless you bring it to their attention.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I’m so jealous of your tuition program! While I was in grad school, my employer would reimburse us for $500 per semester, with a $1000 per year cap. My last semester I switched to my current employer, and they had no tuition reimbursement.

    But go for it! Get whatever you can! If you plan on staying where you are, that is. 🙂

  • One of the reasons I chose my current employer was it’s tuition program. I had several offers for all about the same salary, but I knew that I wanted to get my Masters Degree.

    The company I’m with now paid for it 100% (including books). They even paid for my cap & gown and the flight to the graduation ceremony (I did distance education).

    The best part was that I didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket. I just submitted the bills to accounting, and the cut the checks.

  • Have you thought of getting a gift card to like Amazon, B&N, or Borders? That way you can use your money for tuition and other related expenses and the gift cards for your text books.

    Just a thought….

    all the best to you!

  • Yeah, unfortunately that $5,200 is the max the employer can give without incurring add’l payroll taxes, so most of them are completely unwilling to go over that amount. Getting an Amazon or B&N gift card could be extremely helpful towards books, though!

  • My employer also has the $5250 cap, so I had to pay out of pocket for some of my masters (mine was quite a bit more expensive than yours too!). My first year I managed to finagle a little bit more, but then they started enforcing it. Being a non-profit, we don’t really do the “bonus” thing.

    I also noticed my lack of friendliness and increased short temper. Also, my social life took a bit of a hit. But it’s worth it, I think. If I go back for a doctorate, I’m definitely doing it full time, though.

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