Asking your company to pay for your graduate business education sounds like a great idea, but making the request can be a delicate proposition. How can you raise the subject in a professional and persuasive manner? What do you need to know beforehand? What will your boss ask in exchange? Part-time and online MBA options such as the MBA@UNC, an online MBA offered by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, are usually more realistic for corporate sponsorship as they allow most candidates to continue on in a full-time job while earning their MBA.
Finding Out the Basics
Before broaching the subject of education sponsorship with your supervisor, it is a good idea to find out how your company typically handles such requests. Check the employee handbook and contact the human resources department to find out if official MBA scholarship programs already exist and what procedures exist around them. If your company has not established such programs, you might network informally with other employees who have earned advanced degrees while working for the company and learn whether they requested and/or received sponsorship.
Framing Your Request for Corporate Sponsorship
Your request for corporate sponsorship should frame the costs and benefits of your MBA in terms of adding value to the company and deepening or lengthening the relationship between you and your employer. You want to leverage your previous accomplishments, proven loyalty and genuine aspiration to further serve the business. If your corporation does not have an established sponsorship program, you should draw up a formal proposal outlining the support you need and the return your employer can reasonably expect. A sincere and well thought-out request should make it clear that your education will add significant value to the company.
How to Prepare a Formal Proposal
Corporate sponsorship is a long-term business arrangement that requires significant commitment from both you and your employer, as well as yielding significant returns for both parties. Your proposal should be specific, concrete and professional. Make your proposal specific to one program, and research that program thoroughly. Do not promise to stay with the company for longer than you actually want or intend to. In your proposal, make sure you include:
- How much of the tuition and related costs you are asking the company to pay
- How much time you will need off work for classes/residencies and educational travel
- Class projects that will tie in to your professional work
- The curriculum’s specific relevance to your position
- How long you will commit to staying with the company afterward
- Whether you can expect a raise or promotion after completing the program
How to Evaluate an Offer
Your employer may want to negotiate the terms you offer in your proposal. The company will probably add stipulations to protect themselves in the event that you do not perform well, do not complete your degree or violate the agreement later on. Such stipulations are fairly standard, and you should expect them unless you specifically provide such provisions in your proposal. In general, an offer of funding from your employer is an extremely positive development, but you should still make sure that you understand the terms clearly, that they align with your career goals, and you know how they will impact you if unexpected problems arise.
If your employer will offer sponsorship to assist your MBA education, you do need to be aware of the potential tax implications from receiving what the IRS calls Employer-Provided Education Assistance. If your employer pays educational benefits for you during the year, you must generally pay tax on the amount over $5,250. Your employer should include in your wages (Form W-2, box 1) the amount that you must include in income. You can speak with your human resources office for further details.