How to ask your employer to pay for your MBA

Sponsored Content – originally published on

Students who earn their MBA or seek out other continuing education gain knowledge and skills that benefit their companies.

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to earning a degree while working and balancing other commitments, and one of the biggest is how to afford it. According to The State of Higher Education 2023 report from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation, Americans say cost is the single largest barrier to going back to earn a degree, despite knowing the benefits of advanced education.

One way to offset the cost of earning an MBA or other advanced credentialing is to ask your employer to help cover tuition costs. Here are some strategic ways to approach it:

Find out what money may already be available to you.

Some companies offer an annual stipend for continuing education, so that is a great place to start, according to Jeffrey Loewenstein, professor of business administration at Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois and an expert on workplace negotiation.

His research and teaching center on negotiation, creativity, and leadership in the workplace and how these components work together to build better spaces for employers and employees. This expertise lends itself to helping employees ask for what they need – including financial support for continuing education.

Some students in Loewenstein’s online MBA classes take those courses at a rate covered by their employer’s yearly contribution and cover the cost of additional courses on their own if they want to complete their program faster.

For the companies that do not offer educational support as a benefit, Loewenstein explains that it is imperative to explain that further education will make an employee more capable, accelerate their professional growth, and give them the ability to contribute more.

“When professionals can earn their MBA while working, the benefit to the employer goes up because they are seeing the immediate skills and growth of their employee’s education,” Loewenstein said.

He says that when an employee negotiates to have the cost of further education covered, they can highlight that both the employer and the employee win.

Do your research.

Asking your employer to pay for degree or credentialing programs will take time from their schedule, and yours. Make the time worth it for both sides by showing up prepared. Do your research so you can explain:

  • The duration of the college program
  • The potential time commitment needed from you
  • The overall cost and what you are asking your employer to cover
  • The learning outcomes you will achieve
  • How the degree will enhance your professional future with the company

When you have the details in hand, it makes it easier for your employer to say “yes.”

Describe your plan.

You need to be ready to explain how you plan to maintain your current job performance while you take classes.

Chi Chan, current online MBA student at Gies College of Business, said, “I work on not overcommitting myself to too many classes in each semester to make sure my work performance doesn’t suffer while I pursue my MBA.”

Online degree programs are ideal for working professionals. In fact, Prosperity for All estimates as many as 57 million people will take an online course by 2027. Online education has exploded in popularity for many reasons; it can be done at any time from any place, and at Gies, it’s just as effective as in-person instruction.

“The flexible class schedule in the online MBA program at the University of Illinois – and the option to listen back to the class recordings – make it an ideal program for busy working professionals like me,” said Naimul Kader, a current online MBA student at Gies.

Also, consider whether you’ll need to take time off to study or complete work and factor that into the plan you share with your employer.

Share the direct benefits to your company.

When a company offers support, including financial support, for continuing education, it increases employee loyalty and reduces turnover. A Workplace Learning Report found that 94% of employees would stay at a company if it invested in their career development.

“Employees are not usually earning a degree to move on to a different job. They often want to be more effective and capable and intend to stay loyal to their employer,” Loewenstein said. “And as the employee takes a class, they immediately become a more effective worker.”

Kader is one example of successfully approaching an employer about covering the cost of a degree.

“I was able to convey to my employer that paying for my continuing education is not an expense, but an investment,” Kader said. “And as a student, I’ll contribute to uphold the company’s value as a brand ambassador in every meeting and every person I meet on a day-to-day basis in my courses.”

Kader further explains, “Earning my MBA has given me new tools, techniques, concepts, and a network of other talented students from around the globe. It has given me a new perspective to bring to the table at work.”

“I feel my productivity, confidence, and integrity have developed even more than before as a result of participating in the MBA program. I have become more self-motivated, and I have the tendency to take more calculated risks for the company,” Kader added.

Tangible skills also accompany students who are in advanced degree or certification programs.

“Having a higher level of education, especially an MBA, allows me to understand the business impact of the decisions that I make daily. This allows me to make better decisions that will positively affect my company and ensure that I can contribute to the well-being of my company at a higher level,” Chan said.

The Gies Business Difference

The University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business recognizes that cost is a major barrier to graduate education, which is why the College intentionally priced its online MBA program (iMBA) at less than $25K – a fraction of what you’d expect to pay at many other premier universities. Some students can complete the whole program with the existing educational benefits offered by their employer; others, like Kader, have successfully demonstrated the benefits of their program and convinced their employer to offer additional support.

Loewenstein explained that the goal of the University of Illinois’ online MBA program is to create life-changing access to business education. Every course is offered multiple times online so learners can participate from anywhere in the world. He highlighted that the program is intentionally designed to be incredibly flexible so that it fits easily into many people’s lives.

Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois allows students the flexibility to pay tuition as they take classes – instead of paying for an entire semester or entire program up front. The MBA program can be spread out over three to five years, giving learners the opportunity to choose how many courses they take per year.

Ready to get started on your MBA or another advanced certification or degree? Learn more about the Gies College of Business master’s in business programs.

About the Author

Metro MBA

Find the best option to advance your career with MetroMBA. Your Metro. Your MBA.

Let us find your Program match!!

  • Please only indicate the regions you are interested in pursuing your degree. If you select, "all regions" you do not need to select individual regions.
  • Looking for help? Check the box(es) below!
  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Your compare list