I was reading your blog about Tuition Policies. I’m in a very unique situation and wondered your advice.

My previous company paid for my Tuition for 1 year, then they informed me that they were going to outsource my job, and I wouldn’t have to pay this back.

However, they refused to give me a set time frame for my last day of work. Since I was a new home owner, and would only receive 4 weeks severance pay I felt I would be gambling on finding a new job with a small time frame, so I decided to leave once I was offered another job. Now, I put myself in the position to re-pay what they paid for my tuition. I noticed in your blog that you said . . .”it’s next to impossible to get that money back if the person doesn’t willingly cough up the check”, I just wanted to know your thoughts on this topic? What can the company do, if I don’t repay this money?

The company can take you to court and sue you and they would win. Yeah! Just what you want to do. You want a court judgment issued against you.

Now, the probably won’t, but they might. You don’t want it to come to that. You also signed a contract and legally you are obligated to repay, since your resignation was voluntary. Now, since you had already been told that your position was being outsourced, you might be able to argue that this was a version of a constructive discharge. Usually this is applied when your company makes it so miserable that you have to leave. I could argue that by telling you your job is eliminated and not giving you a time frame, the only rational decision was to quit and therefore you were forced into it.

I doubt you could win that argument in court. And as I said, you don’t want to go to court anyway. Plus, you are an honest person and want to do the right thing. It’s one year of tuition. Step up to the plate and approach the person responsible for such things. Present your case and say, “under the circumstances, I believe it’s fair if I repay 1/3 of the tuition. After all, my job was scheduled for outsourcing and I saved you the cost of 4 weeks severance.” They’ll probably jump at it, given that they don’t want to go to court either.

Keep in mind that the person who manages the tuition reimbursement program probably does not have the authority to approve such a thing. So, if she immediately says no, ask who would have the authority to approve a deal and go to them. Frankly, I think they’d be fools not to accept it. You may have to negotiate a little bit and pay a bit more, but I doubt they’ll come after you for the whole amount.

Or, you could get someone who is a complete policy nut who will become apoplectic at the mere thought of granting an exception. If so, I’m sorry.

I feel your pain. And for the record, I think you made the right decision. No point staying on when you have an indefinite term date. Companies that do that type of thing to you should be offering stay bonuses, but even those are rarely worth turning down a real job for.

Good luck in your new job.

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10 thoughts on “Tuition and Quitting

  1. I don’t think you should be required to repay tuition in this case, or even have to offer to pay 1/3 of the tuition. They told you your job was outsourced and the terms of the outsourcing were that you didn’t have to repay tuition, only variable was when was your last day.

    Given that you are leaving b/c the job was outsourced, I wouldn’t start by offering to pay 1/3 of tuition. I’d start with the ‘leaving b/c job outsourced, terms of outsourcing were no requirement to repay tuition’ line of thinking.

    Unless there was some incentive to stay presented along with the information that your job was outsourced, like a contract you singed that you will stay for some bonus or benefit such as not repaying tuition, I think your leaving is part of the outsourcing announcement. You were already informed you no longer had a job.

    Whether or not you repay your tuition doesn’t make you more or less ‘honest’ as EHRL puts it. Under these conditons, I don’t see any moral or ethical obligation to repay tuition to remain ‘honest’.

  2. Question for the poster – do you have a copy of your former employee handbook? Is there a policy for tuition reimbursement should your employment be terminated? Do you have anything substantive – like a letter, email, etc indicating that you would be losing your job to outsourcing?

    We do a whole lot of tuition reimbursement. We would not collect the tuition, that would not be our policy or practice.

    I would take care of this issue myself, contacting the company before they sent me a letter or called about the $$. I would also ask (if you don’t have it) for the POLICY of tuition reimbursement upon termination. I would then ask for their PRACTICE, which may be completely different. I would then ask under what circumstances have they waived tuition repayment? (If they have waived repayment before, this question would make them uncomfortable).

    I believe that you have a strong case to refute repayment.


    1. So my company was bought out and the policy is 2 years or they can collect for 2 years back. However, a year of that was paid by a previous owner can they go back still on what was paid before the company was bought by a new owner?

  3. Evil Hr lady gives really horrible company bias info. I am a corporate lawyer for a fortune 10 company and there is no way the company would take you to court and if they did they would get eaten alive. They are outsourcing your job and that makes it your responsibility? Heck no!

  4. Thank you all for your comments, I am the person who originally e-mailed EHRL for her advice. Thank you Mr. Haven for your advice. I actually made an appointment with a Lawyer, and maybe he can help me out with this employer. I don’t feel that I should have to pay it back, because if it wern’t fo rme loosing my job, I would have stayed. Negotiating is a good idea, and I hope I have a good case, or that my lawyer is optimistic.


  5. Ahhh – a good example of what is wrong with our financial sector today. Let’s just suppose that the education was offered by the employer in good faith (why would they pay if they thought they would outsource). The employee received the benefit of the education and now the employer has to outsource the job. Their stipulation was to stay until the time was convenient for “them” not “employee”. Again – a very typical request from any employer who finds themselves in this situation. The employee who got the benefit of the paid education AND didn’t want to stay until such time that the employer no longer needs her – goes gets a lawyer to get out of the contract. GREAT! I say give the year of education BACK and call it a day. (jk)

    Any ehrl fan knows she gives the disclaimer that she’s “not a lawyer” … yalelaw … get over yourself!

  6. I agree with EHRL. But another issue here is that the company tried to do the right thing by giving the employee advance notice that the job was ending. Seems like the employer is getting hosed for not firing the person immediately. And how much notice was there – 6 months, 3 months? Makes a difference I think.

  7. I don’t understand how a company can legally pursue an employee for tuition benefits. The company gets a tax deduction for tuition assistance up to $5,250, which allows them to break even. It makes no sense to then expect an employee to pay this money back. Does the company then adjust its tax return, by paying the additional tax?

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