Lack of Inclusivity in Tuition Policies

By Jenna McCoy

March 07, 2023
8 min read

Lack of Inclusivity in Tuition Policies

DeVry University’s mission is to close society’s opportunity gap, and as part of that, we believe in today’s economy “access” to education is necessary but not sufficient. Access is indeed core to our mission, but we know that access is the beginning of the story, not the actual journey or the end. For first-generation students, people of color, and students from the lowest economic quintile education opportunities must be enhanced.

Financial barriers1 are the primary reason individuals choose not to attend or not complete their college degree. A study2 by the Gates Foundation found that 45% of respondents cited the cost of tuition and the desire to avoid debt as their reasons for not pursuing higher education. In navigating financial barriers with potential new students and returning students, another barrier emerged- the lack of inclusivity in corporate tuition policies. While 63% of organizations offer tuition reimbursement, 87% of these organizations reimburse upon completion of the academic program with proof of an acceptable grade3  .

The terms Tuition Reimbursement and Tuition Assistance are often used interchangeably, but there’s a significant difference between the two benefits.

Tuition Reimbursement: Tuition Reimbursement is a benefit provided by employers after the employee has provided proof of successful completion of coursework. The employee pays for the coursework upfront and then submits the cost of the coursework to their employer for reimbursement.

Tuition Assistance: Tuition Assistance is a benefit provided by employers where the employer pays the university or institution directly on behalf of the employee.

Why does this matter?

A reimbursement policy may lower the risk for the employer but could create a financial burden on employees who are unable to pay tuition upfront. With a reimbursement policy, individuals of lower socioeconomic status could be negatively impacted as they may not have the financial resources to pay upfront. These individuals may have to find an alternate source of funds, such as loans, to pay for the program upfront.

This results in an inequitable corporate learning environment, as this population of employees may be less likely to pursue higher education and may miss out on opportunities for professional development and career advancement, ultimately leading to a lack of diversity within the organization.

Is your organization’s policy inclusive?

Organizations should consider how their tuition policy impacts their commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEI). Download our checklist to determine if your organization reflects an inclusive environment.

At DeVryWorks, we’re working with clients to drive inclusivity in tuition policies in order to provide an equitable path to higher education for their employees. DeVry allows for a direct bill deferred payment relationship with clients so that employers can offer an equitable tuition benefit while avoiding the risk of the cost for an employee. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out here.


  1. Why Would-Be Students Aren’t Choosing College, Inside Higher Ed (September 2022)

  2. Where Are the Students? Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (September 2022)

About Jenna McCoy

Director, Sales Enablement

Jenna McCoy provides strategic leadership over the DeVryWorks commercial partnership process, upskilling of the DeVryWorks strategic account management team and supports sales technology innovation. In addition, she leads development of the customer buying journey by collaborating with product, marketing, sales and service to evolve the corporate partnership process based on partner needs. McCoy has held various B2B commercial leadership positions, most recently as the Sales Learning and Development Lead at Gartner. She also served as a top performing business development executive at CEB and Gartner. McCoy holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Human Resources Development from James Madison University.

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