Nationwide insurance is one of 16 top Columbus-area employers that offers tuition funding for graduate students while they work at the company. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Choosing where to go for graduate school can be hard. Additionally, deciding to continue school after receiving an undergraduate degree can be costly due to steeper graduate school prices.

Some might have to wrestle with going to graduate school and spending an excess amount of money, rather than starting work immediately after getting a bachelor’s degree.

The best of both worlds can happen in Columbus, where recent graduates can enter the workforce and still receive an education. In 16 of Columbus’s top 17 private employers, new employees can receive funding for their tuition while they continue to work at the company.

These businesses include: Ohio Health, JPMorgan Chase, Nationwide Insurance, Honda, Kroger, Mount Carmel Health Systems, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Limited Brands, Huntington Bancshares, Cardinal Health, Walmart, AEP, Alliance Data, PNC Bank, Panera and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Companies can receive a tax break for helping employees pay up to $5,250 for an employee’s school, according to the federal tax code. Employer programs generally include paying for only tuition and fees, but some companies promise to pay for extra costs, such as the cost of books or time off.

Columbus’ size is appealing for businesses, as it is the largest city in Ohio, third in the Midwest and 14th in the nation, according to Columbus Business First. Having the business and political makeup of a state capital has drawn 20 Fortune 1000 companies and five Fortune 500 companies to Columbus.

Two of Columbus’ most notable Fortune 500 companies are Nationwide Insurance and L Brands. While Nationwide Insurance promises to cover 100 percent of tuition and 50 percent of books for undergraduate and graduate courses, L Brands’ website states that it reimburses some cost of graduate school for full-time employees, though it did not cite specific figures.

Eric Hargrove, director of public relations for Nationwide Insurance, said the company’s program is focused on providing employees learning opportunities while they remain employed.

“[Our program] is designed to help associates continue to grow personally, professionally and embrace a perspective of lifelong learning,” Hargrove said.

Nationwide and L Brands come in at No. 69 and No. 234 in the Fortune 500 and are sixth and 12th in the top 25 largest Columbus employers, respectively. They also are two of the top hiring companies of the Fisher College of Business’ undergraduate business students.

If recent Ohio State graduates decide to move directly into graduate school, there might be employment opportunities within the university, as well.

The Ohio State Graduate School offers tuition stipends to lower the cost of graduate school for programs that involve teaching, researching or assistant-teaching.

Scott Herness, the graduate school’s interim dean, said these programs are competitive packages that incentivize students to take the jump into graduate school.

“Graduate student funding, especially fellowships and graduate associateships, provide financial support for students,” Herness said. “They are also key ways of exposing students to the full range of activities — advanced practice, teaching, research, to name just a few — associated with careers that rely upon advanced training.”