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Key Elements of Successful Tuition Assistance Programs: A New Model for Workforce Development

With the pace of technological advancement and customer demand for innovation showing no signs of slowing, continuous skills development for workers is a critical business imperative. Employers must enable, promote, and reward upskilling or run the risk of becoming obsolete.

Unfortunately, too many organizations still rely on an outdated tuition reimbursement model that leaves learning and development opportunities beyond the reach of most workers. Further, many employers unwittingly contribute to low participation rates by poorly administering and marketing tuition assistance programs, and by failing to tie them to career advancement opportunities.

A competitive business environment, tight labor market, and employee interest in professional and personal growth means organizations need to implement a smarter, more integrated and effective tuition assistance model that can serve as the centerpiece of the development culture companies need to remain competitive.

UpSkill America at the Aspen Institute and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) teamed to create that model by identifying Key Elements of Successful Tuition Assistance Programs  . This new approach details seven essential components of a modernized tuition assistance program to help employers meet the need for an agile workforce of continuous learners. The Key Elements tool presents best practices in tuition assistance, noting that effective programs:  

  • Align with organizational purpose and objectives
  • Receive visible support and endorsement
  • Are actively promoted and marketed
  • Maximize flexibility and inclusiveness
  • Emphasize affordability
  • Focus on near-term success
  • Include measurement and monitoring 

Download the free Key Elements of Successful Tuition Assistance Programs model now

Tuition Assistance

The Key Elements tool is the first in a series to be released in 2018, thanks to a grant from Walmart to support UpSkill America’s work to equip businesses with tools to educate, train, and support frontline workers’ development to advance their careers. The work builds on UpSkill America’s 2017 UpSkilling Playbook for Employers. The playbook illustrates a range of implementation strategies for upskilling and provides real-world examples of employers who invest in and advance workers in varied organizational settings.  

Soon to be released by UpSkill America and i4cp, the second tool in the series will help employers transition from outdated tuition reimbursement models to a tuition disbursement approach.

About the Institute for Corporate Productivity

i4cp discovers next practices in human capital management. The research firm provides its extensive member network of leading global employers and government institutions with the research, peer collaboration, tools, and data essential to developing and executing workforce strategies and practices that deliver higher market performance. To learn about i4cp, go to  

About Aspen Institute's UpSkill America

UpSkill America is an employer-led movement that promotes training and advancement practices to help workers progress in their careers and move into better-paying jobs, with the goal of expanding opportunity for America’s workers and helping our economy and communities thrive. UpSkill America is a part of the Economic Opportunities Program of the Aspen Institute. For more information, visit  

This article was co-authored by Kevin Martin, Chief Research Officer at i4cp, and Jaime Fall, Director, UpSkill America, Economic Opportunities Program.  

Kevin Martin
Kevin Martin is the chief research officer at i4cp. A highly sought-after international keynote speaker on all aspects of human resources and talent management, Kevin has been recognized as a “Top 100 HR Influencer” by HR Examiner, is a renowned keynote speaker, and has been published in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and HBR.