Save on kids’ tuition with a university job

When Laura Hefty re-entered the workforce after staying home with her two children, she was looking for good pay and benefits. She never expected that the benefits would help her save on college tuition.

Five years ago, Hefty took a position as an executive assistant at Princeton University. This year, her son Tim is a college freshman and Princeton is helping pay his tuition — even though Tim isn’t going to Princeton.

If you’re a parent looking for a job, consider looking for positions at a college or university — especially if the benefits include tuition for your dependent children. You don’t need an advanced degree; often, staff and non-teaching positions are eligible for these tuition benefits, too.

U.S. News and World Reports says that the average private college tuition for 2012-2013 is $28,946, and the average public college tuition is $18,855 for an out-of-state student. Finding a job that can help pay for college tuition — or save you from having to pay for it at all — could really help a family’s bottom line.

It’s important to understand two things about tuition benefits. First, many colleges require that you work there a certain length of time before those benefits begin. Second, you need to know the difference between various tuition programs, which include tuition remission, tuition assistance and tuition exchanges. Here are the details of each.

Tuition Remission
This usually means that you do not have to pay any tuition at all. In other words, your kid goes to college for free from tuition. There are still fees and, if he or she lives on campus, room and board. Even so, tuition remission can save a lot of money.

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Someone I know who works at Muhlenberg College, a small liberal arts school in Allentown, Penn., has saved more than $500,000 on college tuition, thanks to its tuition-remission program. Her four sons have attended and she has gotten away with not paying for 16 years of college tuition. (For the 2012-2013 school year, Muhlenberg charges $41,225.)

Tuition Assistance
The tuition benefits Hefty gets from Princeton fall under the umbrella of tuition assistance – that is, the college assists parents with the cost of tuition, even if the child attends another college. “The benefit that I receive from Princeton covers 50 percent of Tim’s tuition,” says Hefty, whose son attends Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. “The annual tuition grant under the Children’s Educational Assistance Plan increases each year and is available to faculty and staff who have been working at the University for five years.”

Some colleges have a cap on how many children can take advantage of tuition assistance. For example, they might offer assistance for 24 semesters. If you have three or fewer kids who finish their degree in four years — or eight semesters each — you’re fine. If you have more kids or your child attends a school that runs trimesters, the benefit would cover less.

Tuition Exchanges
Hundreds of colleges nationwide participate in these arrangements that allow your child to attend another college within the network for free or a reduced cost. Some of  these exchanges are built on geography or proximity. The Great Lakes Colleges Association offers a tuition-exchange opportunity that covers 85 percent of tuition at 16 colleges in the Midwest. Other regional exchanges include the Associated Colleges of the South and the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges.

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Other exchanges have to do with a school’s religious affiliation, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Tuition Plan Program, the Catholic College Cooperative Tuition Exchange and the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities. There are two national, nondenominational tuition-exchange programs as well:  The Tuition Exchange has more than 600 private and public institutions in its network; the Council of Independent Colleges Tuition Exchange Program covers almost 400 colleges and universities nationwide.

Where might you find a job in higher education? I recommend searching the following websites:

Again, keep in mind that you have to work at certain places for a specific length of time before those benefits begin. If you’ve got a senior in high school, a job at a college might not help on the tuition front. But if your kids are younger, tuition benefits might be a deciding factor in which job you ultimately take.

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