Tuition: FSA Eligibility
What is tuition?
Tuition reimbursement, also known as tuition assistance, is a generous employee benefit that outlines specific terms in which employers will cover a portion of an employee's continuing education expenses. These contractual arrangements often have strict policies that outline how much an employer will pay and how these funds will be dispersed over a given amount of time. For instance, a company may choose to contribute a set amount for degree/certificate programs, while opting for a separate allocation for an associate's degree or other personal development coursework (The College Board).
Companies can also structure tuition reimbursement based on the employee's success in the courses. For instance, companies may pay for courses or degree programs at the moment of registration, or conversely, some may withhold reimbursement until the successful completion of required coursework or maintaining a certain grade point average. Additionally, some companies may require that courses eligible for tuition reimbursement be "work-related." Employers may rule that some courses will only be reimbursed if it relates to the job that an employee is currently performing, while others may choose to fund further professional development to prepare workers for future positions.
In the past, tuition reimbursement was treated as taxable income for the employee, but sweeping Congressional changes in the late 1990s and 2000s altered what is considered qualified education expenses. Currently, the only qualified education expenses are those that are paid by the worker and his/her spouse that file a joint return, a student that is claimed as a dependent on the worker's return or a third party including relatives or friends. Employer contributions are no longer considered taxable income, but in some cases, if a course is not job-related, some employers will consider this a taxable benefit and the relevant amount will be withheld from the worker's reimbursement.