Bundled value: An analysis of working learners’ perceptions of tuition assistance programs
We conducted this research while employed by the Apollo Research Institute, later renamed the Phoenix Research Institute. The Institute no longer exists so the article is not available on a website. I provided the URL from an article in which the study is mentioned.
- Many organizations offer educational assistance to attract, retain, and maintain a qualified workforce. Despite their significant financial outlay, few organizations measure the effectiveness or return on investment of tuition benefit programs.
- The purpose of the current descriptive study with a quantitative and qualitative component was to examine employees’ perceived value of the tuition benefit program at a large organization where employees are consumers of their own company product.
- Data were collected using an online survey consisting of demographic questions, an 11-item Likert-type perceived value scale, and three open-ended questions.
- Survey responses from 5,592 current and past tuition benefit program participants were quantitatively and qualitatively analyzed to understand perceived value.
- Quantitative results indicated more than 70% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with 9 of the 11 statements describing perceived value of the tuition benefit program. Respondents expressed the greatest agreement with value statements related to general personal development and marketability; the lowest agreement was with value statements about recruitment and retention.
- Quantitative results related to recruiting and retention only partially supported research findings regarding employer-intended value of tuition benefits programs.
- Qualitative results indicated value perceptions are multi-dimensional. Initial coding revealed five primary perceived value themes: education (33%), career (32%), cost (19%), personal growth (12%), and engagement (4%).
- Themes that emerged in the qualitative results suggest perceived value is complex and difficult to capture through closed-ended statements based on historical research. Employers’ general assumptions about perceived value of tuition benefits programs may be incomplete.
- Employers should leverage the tuition benefit program as a strategic tool, maximizing the benefits of a more highly educated workforce by giving tuition benefit programs greater visibility and more intentional use. Employers should position the tuition benefit program as a multiple-value or bundled-value proposition to raise employee awareness of the program’s value.
- Employees should investigate tuition benefit program options and consider the full range of benefits of participation.
- Researchers should conduct additional research to clarify employee perspectives about the relationships among tuition assistance, recruitment, engagement, and retention; investigate how perceived value might vary across organizations and differ by role and family member participation status; and increase the utility of the perceived value scale.