Ethics question-tuition reimbursement

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beaniecounter
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Ethics question-tuition reimbursement

Postby beaniecounter » Sat Jun 23, 2007 8:15 am

Hi all - I am currently working full time and schooling part time trying to finish my degree sometime before I retire :wink: . My company has kicked around the notion of a tuition reimbursement program on classes related to my current job (accounting). I work for a fairly small company, and there's really not a lot of room for moving up in this place. Two of my co-workers have been there 20+ years and are still in the same positions as when they started. I do not want to make a career out of being an A/P clerk. Plus, I hate the town we're living in and plan to move as soon as possible after I graduate. However, I would feel pretty guilty leaving my employer high and dry after they paid for school.

I was wondering if anyone had an opinion on how long I should stick around once I get my degree if they pay for it. Call it ethics, or morals, or whatever. Would I maybe be better off turning down free money in exchange for the freedom?

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morydd
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Postby morydd » Sat Jun 23, 2007 9:22 am

Most places with tuition reimbursement programs have rules regarding how long you have to stay after they've paid for you to not owe them the money back. This is to prevent exactly what you're talking about. Clearly you feel that taking the money and running would be unethical (no one can define your ethics but yourself). You should probably talk to whoever is in charge of the program about what the company's expectations would be.

This is the policy our company has.
If an employee voluntarily terminates employment prior to completion of degree, the employee must repay 100% of reimbursement made during past 24 months.
If the employee voluntarily terminates employment within 12 months of completion of degree, the employee must repay 75% of last 24 months reimbursement.
If the employee voluntarily terminates employment after 12 but before 24 months of completion of degree, the employee must repay 50% of last 24 months reimbursement.
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Postby consultantjournal » Sat Jun 23, 2007 11:17 am

Regardless of whether there's a policy or not, most companies are aware that you're pursuing education/training as a means of advancing your career. If they approve your tuition for reimbursement, they are implying that they'll step up with career, salary, benefits or work environment enhancements that reflect that training. If they don't come up with something, there's nothing wrong with moving on. Besides, if you use sick leave, vacation, dental benefits or the like, you don't expect to have to pay it back. And some companies intentionally provide bigger training allowances as a means of signalling support for employee careers (one company gave me $7k a year). That being said, if there's a repayment policy, you'll want to set money aside if you leave before the time expires. That's why some people seek out signing bonuses.
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pf101
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Postby pf101 » Sat Jun 23, 2007 1:01 pm

I agree with Mory. Find out what their policy is. A friend is using tuition reimbursement to get her MBA. By the time she's done this August they will have paid out $42k in education funds. They require that she stay 12 months after the last payout. If she leaves early she has to repay a pro-rated portion.

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Postby Daedala » Sat Jun 23, 2007 1:42 pm

consultantjournal wrote:Regardless of whether there's a policy or not, most companies are aware that you're pursuing education/training as a means of advancing your career. If they approve your tuition for reimbursement, they are implying that they'll step up with career, salary, benefits or work environment enhancements that reflect that training. If they don't come up with something, there's nothing wrong with moving on. Besides, if you use sick leave, vacation, dental benefits or the like, you don't expect to have to pay it back. And some companies intentionally provide bigger training allowances as a means of signalling support for employee careers (one company gave me $7k a year). That being said, if there's a repayment policy, you'll want to set money aside if you leave before the time expires. That's why some people seek out signing bonuses.


My company says in its tuition reimbursement policy that they're not implying that they'll do anything for my advancement. Other companies may make similar statements. However, I see nothing wrong with moving on as long as you pay back the money as you've agreed to.

Actually, the 75% tuition reimbursement is the main reason I'm staying where I am. My salary is pathetic, even for an employer known for underpaying.

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Postby beaniecounter » Sat Jun 23, 2007 2:07 pm

That's just it, though, there ISN'T a policy set up yet, it's just something they've mentioned a few times. Usually when I ask for time off to go to my advising appointments. Honestly, I'm not sure it would occur to them to write that kind of thing into the policy. If not, I'm just wondering how long I should stick around without it reflecting poorly on me. Because even a raise and/or advancement within this company is not enough to keep me living in this town long term. In fact, I'm thinking of leaving sooner than later, but that's a whole 'nother dilemma.

Assuming they did put those kind of restrictions in place, I'm not sure how to turn it down, since as I said it's a fairly small company and I'm the only one in school right now. They're kind of talking about it because of me. If I say thanks, but no thanks, that makes it pretty obvious that I'm only biding my time, which kind of hinders my chances of decent raises and extra responsibilities in the meanwhile. Doesn't it?

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Postby consultantjournal » Sat Jun 23, 2007 2:17 pm

Daedala wrote:My company says in its tuition reimbursement policy that they're not implying that they'll do anything for my advancement. Other companies may make similar statements. However, I see nothing wrong with moving on as long as you pay back the money as you've agreed to.

Actually, the 75% tuition reimbursement is the main reason I'm staying where I am. My salary is pathetic, even for an employer known for underpaying.


They may explicitly state that they're not going to do anything for your advancement, but that's just to cover themselves if you decide to sue or kick up a fuss. Companies don't want to waste resources, so, if they agree to pay for your education/training, they're implying that they're going to help you use it in some way or that they're going to use it to retain you a bit longer. Why else would they pay?

If you're in a company with no policy, you could probably leave guilt-free 12 months after the last payment. That's enough time for the company to decide whether to do something about using your education/training.
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Postby Wesley » Sat Jun 23, 2007 8:46 pm

If you're really feeling guilty about this, have them pay for your first three years, then foot the bill yourself for the final year, while you still work for this company...debt paid in my mind.

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Postby kgazette » Sun Jun 24, 2007 7:53 am

consultantjournal wrote:They may explicitly state that they're not going to do anything for your advancement, but that's just to cover themselves if you decide to sue or kick up a fuss. Companies don't want to waste resources, so, if they agree to pay for your education/training, they're implying that they're going to help you use it in some way or that they're going to use it to retain you a bit longer. Why else would they pay?


Some companies offer tuition reimbursement just to attract college students to their jobs.

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Postby KJS » Sun Jun 24, 2007 9:28 am

That is a toughie if they don't have a set policy - most places, as has been mentioned, make you stay on for X amount of years or you have to pay part/all of it back. I guess I'd see how things shake out before jumping to any sort of final conclusion. Maybe they have a policy in the wings that they are going to roll out?

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Postby SJean » Sun Jun 24, 2007 12:21 pm

This has encouraged me to re-read my companies tuition reimbursement policy to ensure there is nothing like that written into ours. I'm pretty sure there isn't--in my field tuition reimbursement is a fairly standard perk for larger companies... I think they do it partially as a means of recruiting motivated people.

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Postby consultantjournal » Sun Jun 24, 2007 3:15 pm

I don't know about the law everywhere, but I don't think a company can force you to pay back tuition for training courses they decided you needed. If you approach them, you have to pay them back. But you can't be forced to pay back something they made you take.
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Postby jdroth » Mon Jun 25, 2007 10:14 am

For my day job, I help run my family's small business. We offer tuition reimbursement. We're a little unusual, and we know it, in that we'll reimburse tuition for any class. Our intention is to promote education regardless the subject. If an employee decided to go to school to become a mechanic, and then left us for his dream job, I wouldn't begrudge him that fact. Actually, I'd feel good about it. But, as I say, I know that we're unusual.


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