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Employer financial support makes graduate education possible


By Mary Bowen, Kansas State University

Earning a graduate degree and mastering new skills can advance your career. However, graduate education can be an expensive undertaking. With most MBA programs costing more than $30,000 to complete, many students look for assistance when funding their education. While student loans and scholarships are common sources of financial assistance, one source that is often overlooked is a student’s employer.

“Company tuition assistance allows employees the opportunity to better themselves, both personally and professionally. The Master of Agribusiness (MAB) program at Kansas State University has broadened my perspective on agribusiness and allowed me to use those resources in my job. Without tuition assistance, this opportunity would not have been possible for me,” Paul Pommer, Grain Merchant for Hannabaum Grain, said.

Many companies see value in providing tuition assistance to employees. Considering it a way to develop talented and skilled employees, companies promote continuing education and career training as part of an employee’s development. Employees and their companies both benefit from the newly acquired skills and broader thinking gained through earning an advanced degree.

“Kansas State University is one of Cargill’s “core” universities, which means it is one of few select universities we have chosen to support because their graduates have proven to be bright, talented, possess a strong work ethic, and have a solid background in their fields of study. There have been many graduates and employees from Cargill enrolled in the Master of Agribusiness program. The program is actually listed on an internal website for continuing education as an employee development option,” Terry Garvert, Corn and SBM Customer Risk Manager with Cargill, Inc., said.

The MAB program surveys its incoming students to gather information including how they learned about the program, the area of the food and agriculture industry they work in, what they hope to gain from the program, and how they will pay for the program. Information obtained from the last three classes entering the MAB program shows more than 60% receive some level of company financial assistance/tuition reimbursement. Of those employees receiving company support, approximately 1/3 have 100% of their tuition and fees paid by their companies.

“Company support has made it possible for me to earn a Master of Agribusiness degree,” Nanci Daesch, General Auditor for Monsanto, said. “Completing this degree is providing me with the latest analytical tools, the opportunity to connect with experts in the industry, form lasting relationships with my fellow students across the value chain, and work with professors who are passionate about the food and agriculture industry—so much more than just a diploma.”

If you are considering applying to a master’s program, the first step is to talk with your supervisor to see if graduate school is a good fit for you career development plan. Your company’s HR office should be able to provide information on tuition assistance options offered and if there are company-preferred programs.

“The program you are considering should be able to work with you and your employer to make sure that any paperwork needed for you to be properly reimbursed is processed quickly and accurately. When you are investigating continuing education options, be sure to ask what the university’s procedures are and how much experience they have had working with employers. A reputable program should also have current students and alumni you can touch base with for additional perspective on this aspect,” Deborah Kohl, MAB Program Coordinator, said.

Kansas State University’s Master of Agribusiness is an award-winning, distance-education degree program that focuses on food and agribusiness management. Students in the program are located in more than 40 states within the United States and more than 25 countries abroad. They range in age from 25 to 55 and work in every sector of the food and agribusiness industry. The MAB program is currently taking applications our January and April 2013 cohorts. To find out how you can be a part of the K-State Master of Agribusiness program or for more information on how the MAB can help your career, please go to, call 785-532-4495 or e-mail