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By Erin Conroy -- AP Business Writer

Pay my tuition ... PLEASE? Your employer may offer tuition reimbursement, but in these trying economic times, how do you work up the nerve to cash in on the opportunity?

Katy Piotrowski, author of the new book "The Career Coward's Guide to Career Advancement," says at least half of American workers are offered educational benefits from their jobs. Still, many don't know how to pursue these opportunities or justify them to employers during an economic downturn.

"It's easy to get into a scarcity mentality of, 'Oh gosh, there's just so little money around,'" Piotrowski said. "But companies are always looking to succeed and get to the next level. If you're interested in learning new things that could position the company in a better way, it can be a win-win situation."

Piotrowski offers these tips to approach employers about financial support for continued education opportunities:

  • Lead with your employer's interests and ask which areas they would like to see the team develop expertise. Then, as you evaluate training programs, aim to incorporate your employer's needs into courses that will also help you achieve your personal career training goals.
  • Provide hard data about how your improved education will result in increased productivity, profitability and opportunities.
  • Guarantee a good grade. Many businesses won't cover employee education costs unless they receive a "B'' grade or higher. Offer a similar guarantee to your employer to prove that you are serious about success in the classroom.
  • Promise to stick around for a set period afterward. One primary objection employers have to paying for education is that team members leave shortly after earning their degrees.
  • Offer to split the cost. Times are tight, especially now. If you meet objections about a weak bottom line, suggest that you split the cost. Some educational subsidy is better than none at all.

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