According to a 2017 Nurse.com survey, nearly 80% of U.S. millennial nurses and 57% of Generation X nurses planned to pursue higher education, either for higher salaries or to fulfill job requirements. This same survey revealed that 49% had tuition reimbursement benefits from their place of employment.
Tuition reimbursement is one of the professional initiatives offered by health care organizations to recruit and retain high-quality nurses. Investing in employees in the form of tuition assistance can pay off big for employers by gaining the best talent and improving patient outcomes. Facilities that have high numbers of BSN-prepared nurses have better patient outcomes.
The Case for Higher Education
There has long been a push for higher education for nurses, and recently, real traction has occurred. New York State was the first U.S. state to pass the BSN in 10 law making the completion of a BSN within 10 years of licensure mandatory unless grandfathered by a particular clause. This law went into effect for New York in late 2017, and more states are to follow. This push for higher education was outlined clearly in The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Landmark 2010 report. In “The Future of Nursing” the IOM recommended that 80% of the U.S. nursing workforce be BSN-prepared by 2020. More nurses are returning to school for baccalaureate degrees through programs such as the one offered by Carson-Newman’s (C-N) online RN to BSN.
Earning a Degree While Working is a Big Plus
Tuition reimbursement or assistance is a win-win for both employer and nurse. The decision to pursue advanced education is costly regarding both money and time, and the financial aspect can be a significant drain on the working nurse. Tuition assistance is a major benefit, and one of the most significant incentives for a nurse when deciding to work at a facility or remain at a facility.
How Tuition Reimbursement Works
Each employer’s tuition reimbursement program will be different so take the time to investigate your options and understand how it works in order to maximize benefits and minimize out of pocket expenses. An organization’s human resources department will be able to provide the information necessary before the student enrolls in classes.
When interviewing for a position with tuition benefits, ask questions to make sure that you understand what benefits are available and when you can access them. Some employers’ benefits do not start immediately, and they do not come without guidelines. Most employers require the following requirements for tuition reimbursement:
- The employee must be employed with the company for a designated amount of time following disbursement of funds.
- Some require graduation from the program, but this is not the norm.
- Most reimbursement classes are accredited, degree specific, and college credit courses.
- Continuing education credits are usually not covered by tuition reimbursement.
- A standard requirement is the maintenance of a specific GPA. Students typically need to earn a “B” or higher to qualify for tuition reimbursement in each class.
- Another standard rule that only classes that are “work-related” are approved, but some employers are expanding options to attract new hires.
- Some offer tuition assistance up-front and others reimburse for classes once completed with a satisfactory grade.
Tuition Reimbursement Limitations
Employers usually have a set amount they are willing to contribute. Some offer tuition reimbursement at 100% for specific coursework at individual colleges and universities. Others provide 50% tuition reimbursement with a yearly cap. The Society for Human Resource Management states the average annual contribution per employer was $4,591 in 2014. Tuition reimbursement is taxable and the student must claim it on their taxes. Any amount over $5,250 in tuition reimbursement per the calendar year counts as taxable income.