Software engineer Blake Peterman is midway through earning his master’s degree, a goal he likely wouldn’t have pursued if not for Viasat’s Educational Reimbursement Program. He is set to graduate in fall 2020 with a master’s in engineering management.
“I always thought I’d like to go back and get a master’s, but I’m not sure I would have done it without the reimbursement program,” he said. “It’s very helpful financially to get reimbursed for doing it. CU (University of Colorado at Boulder) is pretty expensive, and this covers the vast majority of my tuition.”
Peterman, who started with Viasat as a 2014 intern, is even now seeing the benefit.
“Taking finance and systems engineering classes has already been really helpful with work,” he said. “I’m gaining a better understanding of engineering fundamentals and processes – engineering in a general, broader sense vs. just software.”
The Denver-based employee hopes to eventually segue into a larger management role – using his master’s degree as leverage.
“I manage one person now and I’d like to take that further,” Peterman said. “It’s been really satisfying overall working for Viasat. The work is fun, and I’ve enjoyed being able to get an education and how supportive Viasat has been of it.”
The Educational Reimbursement Program allows Viasat employees to get up to $10,000 a year in reimbursement for coursework at an accredited college or university; employees must get an A or B in each class to qualify for reimbursement. Fulltime, regular employees can be reimbursed for tuition, books, parking and some university fees.
“If you receive an A or B, you’re 100 percent reimbursed for these types of fees,” said Viasat Learning & Development Specialist Jordyn Case. “We have employees from all across the board taking classes, some brushing up on skills they’re using in their current roles, and others taking classes that are potentially applicable to positions they’d like to move to within the company.”
A popular benefit
With the cost of a college education at an all-time peak, research shows employee interest in education benefits is high and growing.
In the 2019 Working Learner Index survey, more than half the respondents ranked tuition assistance programs as more important than paid family leave, life insurance and wellness benefits. Millennials are especially concerned about such benefits; a survey shows more than half are taking classes while working.
And studies show education reimbursement programs are good not only for employees but employers. Those who take advantage of such programs are not only more likely to stay with the company that provided it, but be promoted or transferred to other internal positions.
Viasat’s program requirements for reimbursement are simple: Coursework must be related to either the employee’s current role or for a potential future position within the company, and the employee must receive approval from their manager to enroll in the coursework.
Case said employees who’ve paid for their courses upfront with loans can still be reimbursed for their qualifying classes.
“A lot of universities will also offer employer deferment agreements, so if you’re working for an employer who will reimburse you for your classes, the university will allow you to defer payment until after your class is complete. That way you never have money coming out of your pocket.”
More than 400 Viasat employees are now enrolled in this growing program.
‘Simple and helpful’
Business analyst Jermaine Diggins first took advantage of the program two years ago to help him finish his liberal arts degree. He completed that degree online in early 2020.
“It was simple to use and helpful financially,” he said. “I’m getting ready now to get my MBA, and I plan on using it again.”
Diggins is on Viasat’s field operations team in Denver and does a variety of work that includes finance and project management. His broad-based degree has been helpful because his work at Viasat is also varied, he said, so it’s helped provide him with insight into many different areas.
“Viasat’s help meant I didn’t have to take out so many loans,” Diggins said. “I’m very grateful for it. Other companies I’ve worked for didn’t have a program like this at all, or would only reimburse for a very small amount. For Viasat to contribute so much to my education was great.
“And now, it’s going to help with continuing my education as I go back for my MBA.”
Allyson Griffin was pursuing her master’s degree in organizational leadership when she was hired at Viasat in 2019. She was working in the academic records office at San Diego’s Point Loma Nazarene University, where she also was enrolled in graduate school, with just one semester remaining. Once she joined Viasat, the company helped cover the cost of that last semester.
“I didn’t expect to be able to utilize the program so soon after joining the company, but it was a very pleasant surprise to know that Viasat – and specifically my supervisor – was supportive of me furthering my education through this benefit,” said Griffin, a People and Culture team assistant.
Griffin, who will complete her degree this spring, said the Educational Reimbursement Program affirmed her belief in Viasat.
“I had read about the Viasat culture on the blog and careers page, but this truly gave me an understanding of that culture and those values I’d heard about,” she said. “It all aligned and made sense to me.”