Many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs. On the surface, these programs are such that qualified employees can enroll in undergraduate / advanced degree programs (or even take individual classes), and the employer will reimburse the employee for an amount of the cost. This can be the full amount, a percent based on the grades received, a percent based on the employee's status (e.g. full time, part time), or basically whatever the employer decides.
At first glance, this seems like a dream come true: most terminal master's programs are self-paid.
However, there are often strings attached. Most importantly, the employer can place a requirement such that the employee must not voluntarily terminate employee X years after their last completed course / program. E.g., Sally receives her master's degree through her generous employer's reimbursement program in 2015. If Sally voluntarily terminates employment before 2017, she has to pay back the tuition in full to the employer (2 year buffer period).
some require employees to remain employed with that particular company for a certain amount of years after completing the course in order to avoid paying back the reimbursement.
Other companies simply deduct what they paid for education from an employee's final paycheck - and continue to send bills - if the employee leaves sooner than the company considers appropriate
Some employers require you to commit to staying with the company for a certain number of years after you've finished your education. Moving on before fulfilling the commitment may require you to pay back all educational assistance
Now, besides essentially committing oneself to the company to
years until degree completion
employer buffer period to take full advantage of the benefit, one also has to consider that they will likely be at the same job (and possibly pay grade) for several years.
Note there could be other benefits to enrollment (assuming half-time, still working full time at employer): if Sally has federal student loans, she no longer has to make payments, and her subsidized ones no longer collect interest.
Let us suppose Sally is a young and bright Software Engineer with potential. She recently graduated and her salary when she was hired is $80,000 (including all benefits, like paid time off). The salary increase at her employer averages 2.5% per year, with promotions roughly every 5 years. A promotion is also given when/if Sally receives an advanced degree (e.g. master's or PhD). Promotions always include salary raises. Tuition reimbursement program requires the employee remain 2 years afterwards, otherwise they must pay back the money. Involuntary termination due to circumstances outside Sally's control (lay offs, company falls apart) exempt Sally from the 2 year agreement.
Now, besides Sally somehow master minding her future involuntary termination due to business problems (not her performance, etc.) after she receives her degree, should Sally take advantage of the tuition reimbursement to pursue a master's? Or, will Sally get a better return by changing jobs?