Employer Engagement in TAP Impacts Business

shutterstock_64165825Engagement in tuition assistance programs presents an opportunity for employers to influence the future of their businesses. Whether a business has an immediate or future need for qualified workers TAP is an opportunity to define the need and develop the solution. Engagement in tuition assistance is an opportunity to help employees persist in their education, for business to develop education and career pathways, and establish continual education for employees.

Financial aid is an important factor in student persistence and completion. A new study from the Education Advisory Board (EAB) shows that students are more likely to drop out of college even if they lose aid in relatively small amounts such as $1,000 to $1,500. And for many students an employer’s tuition assistance plan serves as very valuable financial aid. Whether or not employees persist in furthering, or even completing, their education can boil down to an employer’s tuition assistance plan.

“Most students assume the financial aid they get for their first year will stay the same for future years, especially if they do well academically and family circumstances do not change materially. And while that is the prevailing practice, it is not always true,” said Jim Day, vice president at Hardwick Day, a division of EAB, in a statement. “When aid gets reduced, some students simply are unable to pay the increased tuition required to stay in school.” For nontraditional students who often have family financial obligations, this can be especially true.

This is when business engagement in employees’ education can make all the difference. On average students who lose $1,500 to $2,000 are 3 percentage points more likely to drop out and students who lose $4,000 in aid are 4.5 percentage points more likely to drop out. However, students who receive $1,500 to $2,000 are almost 3 percentage points more likely to persist than students who have little or no change in their financial aid. When this financial support comes in the form of TAP it shows the employer’s commitment to employees’ success and becomes a motivational factor.

Employer participation in tuition assistance goes beyond financial support. For several years American businesses have been dealing with a skills gap. Businesses cannot find the qualified workers they need. Yet, according to a Gallup Inside Higher Ed study, 96 percent of chief academic officers are confident that their schools are preparing students for workplace success. This labor supply and demand gap presents an opportunity for businesses to work with colleges and universities to create academic pathways, develop curriculum, and offer strategic student counseling.

Even if businesses aren’t involved in curriculum development with schools, to establish career pathways for employees and increase student success with advising will help close the skills gap and solve problems for businesses, suggests Jobs for the Future A Resource Guide to Engaging Employers. Employer engagement helps businesses and higher education institutions achieve common goals. The best case for employer engagement says Louis Soares, vice president of the American Council on Education, is that neither employers nor educators can accomplish their goals in the labor market alone. Partnerships between the two allow each of them to “leverage their combined knowledge of labor markets, skills, pedagogy, and students.”

Even beyond closing a skills gap, employer engagement helps businesses look to the future. Changing technologies and marketplace demands will present continual challenges, and the employer engagement in TAP is one way to meet the challenges. Including coverage for certificates and alternative credentials in a tuition plan and encouraging employees to seek credentials as part of career path establishes the necessity of lifelong learning. It also is beneficial to both employee and employer. A Resource Guide to Engaging Employers states, “The most vital role for supporting students’ careers lies in interviewing and hiring students who successfully complete certificate and degree programs, or employing them while they study toward a credential. After hiring, an employer can work with the college, workforce provider, or community-based organization to coach and support the candidate’s retention in employment and career advancement.”