In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, companies of every size are striving to stand out from the crowd. Recruiting and retaining a great workforce is a full-time job (and then some), and it’s no longer enough just to offer a competitive salary and a solid health plan. Today’s most talented employees grew up in a world of previously unheard-of amenities, from flexible hours to on-site lap pools to daily massage-therapist visits. In short, they’ve come to expect more.
And no matter what your company’s HR budget, it’s possible to offer more by featuring a scholarship program, tuition assistance package or other education-related benefit. Providing higher education assistance is an easy way to invest in your workforce. By funding employee and dependent education, you’re showing your staff that you care about their personal advancement and their family’s budget; you’re also helping ensure that you’ve got employees with the latest skills and the sharpest thinking.
Employee scholarship programs are especially important in the face of today’s changing higher-ed landscape. As Slate pointed out last week, “non-traditional students”—those who take time off after high school or balance part-time college with full-time work—are becoming a bigger and bigger part of the college world: “Recent high school graduates taking part in the residential college experience represent just 15 percent of all college students. ... Older adult students are increasing their share of higher education enrollment: 38 percent of college students in 2011 were 24 or older. Depending on your definition of a 'nontraditional' student, they may account for as much as two-thirds of all college students.”
In other words, more and more members of the workforce are going to school, as well—and they’re exactly the kind of motivated, self-starting employees that you’ll want to recruit and retain. Tuition assistance benefits, whether they’re scholarship programs, reimbursement plans or something in between, can be the key to doing so.
If you’re ready to start a scholarship program, or you’re looking to expand your company’s current offering, you’ve got some options. The Wall Street Journal recently laid out a number of possibilities for individual, corporate and foundation funders, with a strong emphasis on outsourcing scholarship program management rather than trying to do so in-house. Some options include:
Providing scholarships through a community foundation: This option allows a donor to fund scholarships of just about any amount and criteria. This option is ideal for individuals or small, community-focused businesses.
Establishing a standalone foundation: While this offers a great deal of control over spending and scholarship selection, it can also take a lot of time to manage, and isn’t as tax-friendly as other options.
Creating an endowment or named scholarship with a college: Making a donation to a school or their scholarship foundation means outsourcing award selection and disbursement to the experts—but it also means that only students at the school benefit, and not necessarily your employees.
Developing a scholarship program with a nonprofit administrator: A number of nonprofits across the nation provide scholarship and tuition program outsourcing; Scholarship America’s Scholarship Management Services is the largest, with more than 1,000 clients around the world. Outsourcing your scholarship program helps your HR department save time and money, while you retain the ability to set up award criteria, scholarship amounts and other details.
Whatever option works best for you, your company and your financial situation, the fact is that simply creating an education assistance program for employees and dependents will benefit you from day one. As the lines between college students and the professional workforce become more and more blurred—and the competition for great employees gets more and more heated—it’s imperative for both your company and the country to support educational development, and creating a scholarship program is one of the easiest ways to do so.