Joe Schaefer Joe Schaefer
President, Education Technology Services, Strategic Education, Inc.


June 17, 2024


Employees have long been considered a business’ most valued asset, especially as in-demand skills evolve rapidly in today’s uncertain economy. As businesses navigate a tight labor market, identifying effective strategies to support and enhance employee development will be vital.

A new survey in the Harvard Business Review, sponsored by Strategic Education, Inc., suggests that tuition assistance (TA) benefits are widely recognized by business leadership as a key tool to retain, motivate, and develop the skills of their employees. The survey also uncovered specific challenges, including a lack of prioritization, that may be standing in the way of realizing the benefits’ full potential.

The survey reveals that out of 294 business leaders, 90 percent recognize the strategic value in offering TA benefits, with 91 percent agreeing that such programs can upskill their workforce, giving organizations a competitive advantage. Additionally, 88 percent agreed that an organization can make its employees feel more engaged at work by offering tuition assistance benefits, and 85 percent of business leaders believe the positive outcomes of offering TA benefits outweigh the costs of paying for employees’ education.

Despite recognizing its value, a sizable portion of respondents (39%) said their organization has not evaluated or made updates to its TA program within the past three years, perhaps pointing to a missed opportunity for employers.  

To implement or update an effective tuition benefit program, employers should first answer the following questions:

1. What workforce skills do you need to meet long-term business objectives?

Consider how a TA program can help your organization obtain those skills. 

2. How will you encourage employees to enroll in the tuition benefits program?

 Promoting the program’s benefits, ease of enrollment, and offering upfront payment can increase enrollment. Survey respondents identified employees’ lack of awareness or information about the TA program as one of the challenges to their tuition benefits programs.

3. How can you support employees through their education program?

Survey data shows that employees do not feel they have time to pursue education while working, with 44 percent of respondents indicating their organization offered no additional resources. Perhaps by providing flexible learning options and additional resources like coaching, mentoring, and personalized support, employers could enhance success rates and empower their employees to continue on their educational journey.

One HR executive interviewed for the survey suggested that organizations pair students with alumni who have completed similar programs to help give students the confidence they need to succeed.

4. How will you measure the impact?

Nearly 40 percent of business leaders report they lack the metrics to understand how their tuition assistance program is performing. Tracking retention, skills gained, and employee experience feedback continuously can help justify the investment in TA benefits. Some education benefit platforms, such as Workforce Edge, offer measurement tools to track return on investment (ROI), particularly as the employer demand grows to justify TA programs.

Whether setting up a new TA program, or updating an existing program, thinking through these questions, and developing strategies to overcome common challenges, may help ensure a strong ROI—for the organization and for its employees.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is at the forefront of talent development innovation, pioneering through partnerships and finding new ways to invest in people and skills through initiatives like Talent Finance. This framework adopts modern, public-private approaches to education and training financing, emphasizing affordability, reduced debt, and improved outcomes, informed by working groups of leaders across sectors.

Explore the survey results below.

Learn more about Talent Finance

About the authors

Joe Schaefer

Joe Schaefer

Joe Schaefer is president of Education Technology Services for Strategic Education, one of the largest education companies, where he oversees a portfolio of innovative tech-based programs designed to help working students increase their economic mobility.

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