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Someone recently asked me if it was common practice for organizations to ask employees to pay back tuition reimbursed funds if they quit their job and if so what would be the best way to enforce that collection of funds.   

There are many tuition reimbursement models and most require the employee to stay with the organization for a pre-determined period of time after completing course work.  The number of months or years varies by organization but most have a minimum requirement.  This ensures the employee remains with the organization for the agreed upon period of time and eliminates the need to collect funds from employees if they leave before the required waiting period is over. 
One of the more common practices is to reimburse the tuition to the employee after a waiting period.  For example, if the requirement is for the employee to stay with the organization for six months after completing a class then the reimbursement would be made after that period of time. The way this works is employees pay the tuition up front and are reimbursed after the waiting period. This gives the employee funding for the next class or semester of tuition and so on.  Basically the employee pays tuition up front at the beginning of the process and then the reimbursement helps them pay as they take more classes and the final tuition is refunded after the last waiting period. 
There are other tuition reimbursement models that pay a percentage of the tuition as the employee completes classes and then reimburses the balance after graduation or the required waiting period. For example, if an employee takes eight semesters of school and tuition is $1000/semester and the policy states they will reimburse 50% upon completing a class and the remainder upon graduation, then the employee would receive $500 after completing each of the classes. The other $500 per semester would be retained until the employee graduates and then they would receive the balance of $4000. This model offers incentive for employees to finish the degree program but creates more of a financial burden as they go to school. Tuition reimbursement typically does not affect company payments for continuing education classes, professional conferences or one day training seminars. 
Helping employees achieve higher levels of education benefits both the employee as well as organization. When employees recognize that they are valued by their employer, they go the extra mile to help the organization meet corporate objectives and improve the customer experience. I am a firm believer that employers that invest in an educated workforce reap the benefit of trained, committed and engaged employees. 
Does your organization invest in an educated workforce?

This Business article was written by Patricia Lotich on 8/8/2011

Patricia Lotich is an MBA who is passionate about helping small business owners see their vision come to life by creating infrastructures that support business development and growth through strategic customer focus. She writes for The Thriving Small Business, which provides small business performance consulting services.