Considering an executive education course? Smart move, because when it comes to professional development, everyone wins – those who update their skills and the companies they work for benefit. But the reverse is also true: Organizations that let their employees lag can lose their competitive edge in the global marketplace.

“Companies that invest in their employees boost their performance and employee retention. This loyalty helps companies retain their talented leaders,” says Robert Schaeffer, Client Relationship Manager for Executive Education at Thunderbird School of Global Management. “But there’s also a cost involved for professional development, so the level of investment is a balancing act.”

If the price of tuition is an obstacle, your goals may be within reach if your company chips in. From online courses to in-person programs, tuition can range up to several thousands of dollars, so employer assistance can make a big difference.

“Ultimately, education is an investment in success. Yours – and your company’s.”

Employer assistance

About 52 percent of organizations offer tuition assistance for post-graduate education, according to a 2015 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The terminology varies among companies – tuition reimbursement, employer-sponsored education, educational assistance – and so does the way these benefits are disbursed.

Many companies reimburse up to $5,250 a year for education expenses because that’s the maximum allowed by the federal government for tuition benefit expenditures to be exempted from withholding tax. You can stretch out the value of that benefit, however, by receiving it each year over a longer period of time.

‘We’ll work with you’

Larger companies are often the most supportive simply because they have more resources. But if you don’t work for a company with vast resources, don’t give up. Thunderbird is responsive to the situations of companies and individuals, Schaeffer says, and offers flexibility such as installment plans. “We’ll work with you. We want to create opportunity for those interested in furthering their careers. So we try to exhaust every avenue to find the best option for each participant.”

If your company offers tuition assistance, Thunderbird has the ability to invoice, direct bill, or accept company vouchers, Schaeffer says. “The voucher process is a formal agreement of guaranteeing funds and allows the participant to begin right away.”

Corporate discounts can also help. “If you have a certain number of applicants from the same company, we can work together to offer corporate rates and incentivize multiple enrollments,” Schaeffer says. “Increasing the number of participants allows the company’s tuition budget to go further.”

Persuading your employer

If your company doesn’t currently offer executive education benefits, some advice for bringing your employer aboard:

1) Make the case. Focus on the bottom line to show how investing in you adds value for your company.

  •  Crunch the numbers: Identify ways your professional development can help the  company make money or save money. Be specific about increasing revenue or  taking on new assignments.
  •  Do your homework: Be prepared to discuss details of the program and the skills  you will attain. Include research on how those skills boost productivity or  performance.
  •  Chart a new course: Identify improvements or opportunities to pursue.Schaeffer points to his own situation as an example: Thanks to Thunderbird’s  tuition benefits for employees, he is taking a course in organizational  leadership. “This course is giving me ideas for thinking outside the box,” he  says. “I’m gaining insights into how to approach my job differently and perform  at an even higher level. So that benefits not only me but Thunderbird as well.”
  •  Build prestige: “Executive education courses at a thought leader like Thunderbird can help you boost your company’s global profile,” Schaeffer says. “Other places are starting to realize that it pays off to be global, but we’ve always been first and leading the way with the global mindset.”