Taking advantage of tuition remission benefits

My Story: How I Got a Free Ivy-League Education

contributed by Anna D.

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I was able to get my ivy-league education for free. Well, I did have to pay for the cost of books and I did have to pay for my cap and gown, but that's it. Growing up, my family was very budget conscious, and I was the oldest of four children. There wasn't any way they could help pay for college because they still had three more to get through high school. I went to a local private university right after high school for one semester but dropped out because I didn't really know what I wanted to do. When I calculated how much each class was costing me, it was more than I was willing to pay at that point in my life.

After taking a few years off, at age 22, I decided I wanted to go back to school, but I couldn't think of taking out student loans as I was afraid it would limit my financial choices in the future. I live in a city with plenty of colleges and I had heard one of the perks of working there was a free education. So I decided to go all out and apply for an entry-level job at the ivy-league university. At 22, I was making the same amount of money as many of my friends fresh out of college, I had no student loan debts, and I started taking two evening classes per semester, all year long including summer. I was able to get a very prestigious four-year degree in six years. Also while working at the university, I would interview for open positions at a higher level and use my education as experience on my resume. Staying at the university allowed me to continue my benefits and retain my seniority. (I never had a problem in interviews when it came to giving examples of my time management skills!) By the time I hit my seventh year employment anniversary, not only did I have my degree, but also my salary is more than double what it was when I first started working here.

I've now since married and am hoping to start a family and I have no intention of leaving the university anytime soon. Many of my co-workers work here for the tuition benefit for their children. Many of the local universities require you have a three year minimum employment to use the tuition remission, so many parents start working here when their children are about to enter high school. Check with your local university to see what their requirements are.

Many universities also have other benefits that private institutions just don't have. For example, mine will help you secure a mortgage, eliminating PMI, which was how I was able to purchase my first home as a single woman at age 26. Because my university has a hospital and medical school as part of the university, I have excellent health care benefits at a very low cost. It covers many things that other private plans don't, such as infertility benefits (not state-mandated), which right now is saving me thousands upon thousands of dollars. Many universities also have ample vacation time as well, access to the university library making it convenient to return books on your lunch hour, and many of other perks available to college students like free movie nights, lectures by prestigious people, and a wonderful diverse friendly workplace.

I can still take undergraduate classes at night for free, so far I've taken two foreign languages and hope to take another in the fall, not towards a degree, but just for my own personal enrichment. I can also take graduate classes as long as I pay the taxes on the class. (This seems to change depending on who is in the white house.) If you've thought about going back to school, or have children who will shortly be going to school, think about working at your local university.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by email to MyStory@ stretcher.com.

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