For many Harvard staffers, the dream of getting a University degree can be an affordable reality thanks to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), which lets eligible employees take Harvard classes at a steep discount.
It is a dream that had always been one of Veronica Olsen’s long-term goals. When, with help from TAP, she started working on a graduate certificate, the impact on her career was immediate.
“When I began my business communications graduate certificate, I worked in enrollment services at DCE [the Division of Continuing Education], but then transitioned to coordinator of alumni communications in the Office of Advancement,” Olsen said.
Now, her certificate complete, she is pursuing a master’s of education at Pennsylvania State University and has been promoted again to assistant director of special events.
Christine Natoli, who took over for Olsen as coordinator of alumni communications and events, has used TAP to take five courses at Harvard Extension School so far. In June, she enrolled in the School’s graduate degree program in management.
“I could not afford to receive an advanced degree without the help of TAP,” Natoli said. “My hope is that this degree will help me advance in the workplace. I know that I’m already learning skills and tactics that are helping me in my current role, so I’m excited to see what other opportunities will present themselves to me as I move through the program.”
TAP helps eligible employees take classes at most Harvard Schools, including the Extension School, the Graduate School of Education, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and some designated programs at other Schools.
Classes at the Extension School cost TAP employees $40, while classes at other schools are usually offered at 10 percent of the standard tuition.
Like Olsen and Natoli, about one-third of employees who take advantage of TAP do so to pursue a graduate certificate or degree at the Extension School. A small percentage use the program to get a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. But many more simply pursue personal enrichment. More than 80 percent of employees who use TAP take classes at Harvard Extension School. The range of class offerings, flexible scheduling, and fully online availability enable full-time employees to continue their education while working.
“I’m glad I had the opportunity to continue my education through TAP,” Olsen said. “Deciding to go back to school was not an easy choice. Being in school while working full-time demands time and a financial commitment. Utilizing TAP … helped set me on a trajectory I never expected.”
The TAP benefit is applied upon registration, so there’s no wait for tuition reimbursement. There are, however, some restrictions. It’s important to make sure you are eligible for TAP before you register. And there can be implications for taxes depending on whether you are pursuing a degree or certificate, taking classes for credit, or taking a job-related class.
Still, as Olsen and Natoli have learned, the benefits are worth the time and effort of working through any necessary red tape.
For more information on TAP eligibility, tax implications, and other important legalese on TAP for Harvard employees, visit the Tuition Assistance Program page on HARVie or contact your HR representative.