I got my GED. (The General Educational Development certificate provides certification that the taker has high-school level academic skills in the US and Canada. It's typically an alternative to gaining a high school diploma.)

My company will pay for me to go to college, but they say you've got to work for them for three years after you graduate, or you have to pay it all back.

I'm not sure what to do because I don't know if this is good thing. What happens if I get laid off or they close? Do I need to pay them back?

Is this a good thing?

  • 15
    Those sound like questions for your employer. Generally, I would expect your accountability only to be based on your actions, not theirs. But if in doubt, clarify with them that if they chose to end the relationship, do they somehow expect you to hold up your end of a deal they reneged on.
    – SemiGeek
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 21:12
  • 4
    In addition to the great answers below -- make sure you understand what the payback rules are on if you are let go with cause. Generally a no-fault exit will not require payback... but being terminated still might. Be sure you understand what conditions will expect payback, then weigh if you can live with that.
    – DragonYen
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 21:50
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    Can you add a country flag? No idea what a "GED" is.
    – rkeet
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 6:57
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    @John No! GED is the high school diploma. It's the thing they already have ("I got my GED"). Bachelor's degree is the thing they are thinking of getting. A GED is a pre-requisite for going to college (or at least is the simplest route in). Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 8:08
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    @MartinBonner a GED and High School diploma are not the same. A GED is generally for folks who dropped out of high school and went back later to get their GED. A college admissions programs treats the two separately (with the GED being less favorable because if you dropped out once, you're likely to do it again.)
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 8:43

8 Answers 8


I'm not sure what to do because I don't know if this is good thing. What happens if I get laid off or they close? Do I need to pay them back?

Is this a good thing?

Having someone else pay for your education is a great thing for both sides!

(Here's a relevant article Why Walmart, Disney and so many other companies are paying for their employees’ college education)

Before you decide, you should talk with HR if you still have questions. And you should consider how likely you are to remain employed there for the three years after graduation.

Make sure you know what the company will pay for and what they will not. The companies I worked for would pay for tuition, but usually not for books. And in the companies I worked for you needed to attain a minimum grade to receive the tuition reimbursement. Ask HR about the details.

Normally if you are laid off or the company closes you won't have to pay anything back. But once you are no longer employed by the company, they aren't obligated to pay for any new courses going forward.

And of course you must first decide if you want to get a college degree. It wouldn't make any sense to take this benefit unless you actually want to work toward and attain your degree.

  • I like this answer but I think it needs to highlight the fact that OP needs to be employed with the company during their studies plus 3 full years after obtaining their diploma.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 15:29
  • thanks I checked with HR and there's a little money to help with books up to 200 and you have to get Cs or better so it looks good
    – Tina_Sea
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 16:37

Heck yes! Jump on it if you plan on staying there.

You may want to clarify with them, but typically if they lay you off or close, or whatever, that's on them. They lose the money if it's something you can't help. Most companies when they give tuition reimbursement, it's to ensure that you will stick around, and you won't be voluntarily leaving.

  • 13
    Yup this is completely normal to require you to work for the company after you graduate. Only 3 years commitment is great. I would jump on this. As for what happens if you were laid off or fired I would read the fine print and talk to your company in what situations would you be required to pay back the money.
    – jcmack
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 21:20
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    Down voted because it really isn't that simple. Tuition reimbursement often comes with other terms and conditions... For example, it may require that you maintain a certain GPA or have no grades below a C (sometimes even a B!) and you are on the hook for the cost of any course you don't do well in. You also have to consider how you will pay for other expenses (like food and housing)--will you be able to work part time to pay for that? And if you're working part time, will you be able to get good grades in your classes? Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 13:51
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    @user3067860 Of course. That's why I said "Clarify". Some companies require a B average, some not. I once got a $1500 check for reimbursement on my 2nd to last day of work. Not all companies do, and it can vary, but check with the company. As for all the other things you mentioned? Seems like picking nits to me. I worked full time and went to school full time. and had a 3.96/4.0 GPA. Where there is a will, there's a way.
    – Keith
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 13:55
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    @Keith Your first sentence is "Heck yes!" and you say "may want to clarify". The order of those things should be reversed--heck you should clarify, and it MAY be a good deal (under certain circumstances). Also, Usain Bolt can run 100m in less than 10 seconds, and Sergey Bubka can pole vault over 20 feet high. But if someone offered me free tuition in return for doing either of those things, it would behoove me to consider my own personal capabilities rather than just "is it possible for someone". Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 14:02
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    A neat bonus is that you are more or less guaranteed a job once you graduate. Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 17:05

The other answers are good advice — it’s important that you determine the terms of the additional compensation you’ll receive through tuition assistance.

Have a conversation with a member of HR and be sure to address specifically:

  • Is the tuition benefit a loan that will accrue interest?
  • Is the full loan forgiven at the end of 3 years, or gradually over time?
  • How will the loan forgiveness / tuition payments be taxed?
  • Are there any limitations to the roles you can take on in the company while the tuition is being paid / while your loan is being forgiven?

If you expect take part in the tuition assistance program, plan for the financial impact of the program:

  • Save for a large tax liability at the end of 3 years — you’ll likely be taxed on the value of all tuition payments made by your employer as if it were income.
  • Consider the benefit a loan that you have until it has been fully forgiven. Consider how much debt you want to hold at a given time, and include the value of the tuition benefit in your total debt until it is forgiven (e.g., while you hold the loan, it may not be a good idea to also go buy a house).

Tuition programs are a great benefit. You should be fully informed about how your specific program works before taking advantage of it.

  • @Jay: The house example might not be the best one, as the risks are anti-correlated. A major risk with a mortgage is being fired, but that would likely annul the loan.
    – MSalters
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 14:29
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    I know some companies which handle it gradually - each year 1/3 of the tuition-debt is forgiven, so if you leave after 2 years, you just pay back 1/3, which IMHO is very fair.
    – Falco
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 10:40

You need to go to HR and check exactly what the terms are.

First question you have to ask: what happens if you stop working for the company through no fault of your own? If the company lays off employees, or if your manager doesn’t like your face ( which in the USA would be a valid reason), or if the company goes bankrupt, or if you have an accident and are incapable of working? What if you go on maternity leave (where you would be employed but not working).

Second question: what happens if you stay less than three years? Say 2 1/2 years, do you have to repay everything or a part, say one third?

They should be able to answer these questions, and then you can make an educated decision.


I'm not sure what to do because I don't know if this is good thing.

Entirely subjective on your career goals. If you at all see yourself leaving the company within a year or two- it can be a bad decision since you will be stuck with the company for a longer time unless you want to pay back the tuition reimbursement.

If you can reasonable expect to stay at the company for at least until you no longer have to pay them back anything for leaving- then it would be a good thing since you'd have your degree at least partially paid for- depending on how generous their tuition reimbursement benefit is.

Many companies will pay only partial tuition AND require good business justification before you get approved. Make sure you qualify and if you think you'll be at the company relatively long term- it would be a good deal to take in the long run.


tl;dr: The company I worked for is currently being sued by students that don´t want to pay the tuition back. The end of the story is still unclear. I´m located in Germany. But if you want to stay after finishing school, just take the offer.

Long story: I signed a contract over ten years ago that obliged me to stay two years after finishing, I stayed six and was fine with it. In my contract it was clearly stated I´d have to pay the tuition back if I´m offered a job and don´t take it. For such clarifications contact HR of the company. My contract was pretty clear on that. No job offered or layed off, no paying back.

The guy starting the same program a year after me got only a one year contract and left after the same one year without paying back, because they didn´t offer him a contract for his second "obligatory" year. (he asked for not being offered another contract and the department silently agreed out of good will)

Others of a later year, well, they didn´t want to stay after they finished. They left some months ago without any additional time in the company, should pay the tuition back, and are suing now. Like stated before, the end is still unclear, but I think they´ve got a fair chance of winning. I once was on an instructor event to advertise tuition programs between company instructors. The main instructor of my company told the other instructors of other companies that such a contract "is on very shaky ground".

But back to your real question: I was very happy with that program and also most of the six years I stayed afterwards. A tuition program saves you lot of sorrows while being at college, because you´re almost sure to have a job afterwards. So take your chance!



While this stuff is rather uncommon in the US (from what I gather), in Germany it's a relatively common practice, and perfectly fine as long as you read/negotiate your contract thoroughly.

These contracts can vary greatly (in the US probably even more with even more sinister clauses than in Germany probably), and are usually highly negotiateable if you have a good standing with the company or are a very desireable candidate.

Some questions to ask yourself while (and before) reading or negotiating the contract:

  • What happens if you get laid off (or the company goes under)? [You already asked that question, but we can't give an answer since it heavily varies
  • What happens if you fail academically? (How many "extra years" do they allow before firing you? What happens if they fire you for that reason? Etc.)
  • What happens if you only want to stay 2 years after College? (How is that handled financially, legally [The contract I had had a percentage-by-time based formula for what I'd have to pay X months working after college])
    • What happens if YOU drop out while in college? (Do you have to pay it back on the spot? Is there a grace period for the first semester ? [My employer had one and I'm glad bc it just wasn't my thing]
    • Do they require any work during college? (Can you skip that work if you need the time academically? Is it much?)
    • What happens if they DONT hire you after college? (Do you have to pay it all back despite wanting to work? Only part of it?)
    • How will you finance your college live? (You need money to live, just your tuition being paid is not enough. Will they pay you some pocket money? is that enough? Can you work with them for cash? Will they pay adequatly?)

Remember that these contracts have one main catch:

IF you drop out for any reason, you MAY be left with a giant, unanticipated debt all at once (as opposed to student loans which are known beforehand and accumulate over time), which may put you in a really bad spot. The threat of these loans might also force you to endure working for a company that you don't like (anymore).

These are things to keep in mind, and while this answer might sound pretty negative, there's more than enough positive stuff about this model as well. So take care and consider the offer, it often is a good one :)


Education can change your life for the better, if you choose carefully.

If you don't have the financial means, employer help can unblock your future.

But if you have the option, it's always best to independently fund your studies. The reason is simple: the whole point of getting an education is having more, better opportunities. Once you graduate, you will be a different person, and committing to three more years in your old company would put your future on hold just as you are ready to take off.

Of course, it's possible that the best opportunities will come from your current employer... but can you say this will be true for three long years? Probably not.

Good luck!

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