Additional training can mean the difference between being stuck in the same old position or reaching that once-unattainable promotion. But if it's been years since you were last in school, or if you've never pursued higher education, going to a college or university can be daunting.

With a career and perhaps even a family, you might not know how to fit classes into your busy schedule, let alone how to pay for it.

Fortunately, employers are now seeing, touting and even paying for the benefits of continuing education.

New technology, plus an evolving understanding of those in the workforce, is leading schools to offer more classes and options. It's easier to earn a degree or gain more training, and you don't have to quit your job and become a full-time student to do it.

It could serve businesses well to "encourage employees, financially or otherwise, to continue their education," says H. Lee Krapp, a principal with human resource consultants HRC Consulting in Cincinnati.

He suggests that companies "sit down with the employee and create a development plan to see where they're going."

It's something to take notice of: many employers are willing to pay or facilitate higher education for their employees. If you're thinking of going back to school for more education in your field (or a related field), check to see if your company will help you pay for some of it.

Full or partial tuition reimbursement and direct bill payment are possible options when going back to school. Many local institutions, such as Northern Kentucky University and Thomas More College, accept direct bill payment. Miami University and University of Cincinnati offer payment plans through According to the financial aid office at UC, students can pay for each quarter individually, though they save some money if they pay for the traditional three quarters (fall, winter, spring) up front.

Tuition reimbursement is popular, since it can be worked out on an individual basis, says Judy Bautista, an enrollment counselor at Thomas More. Brandon Billiter at the NKU Bursar's office reports that they bill 20-25 companies for direct bill payment each semester.

Bautista mentions that going back to school doesn't always start with an employee. Sometimes employers can give their team that push to get ahead. "Oftentimes an employer has suggested they go back so they can move up." When someone has been with a company for a long time and has skill, but a lack of education is holding them back, employers will do what they can to get such employees in line for advancement.

Many students pay for school through assistant teaching and research positions, but that's not an option when you're already working full-time. Most schools don't have nearly the same amount of scholarships available for graduate students as they do for undergraduates. Aside from employers paying, Virginia Layton, Miami University's Bursar, is seeing a lot of loans for graduate students, more private than federal.

"Private loans have increased dramatically," she says. "What has happened is that federal loans haven't kept up with tuition increases."

At UC, a large portion of graduate students in the sciences are assisted financially in some way, but that's often due to funded research positions. Mary Watkins of UC's graduate school says that because of the university's decentralized program, it is up to each department to dole out means of financial support. She points out opportunities like the Albert C. Yates Fellows and Scholars Program in the College of Business, which gives support to graduate students typically underrepresented in business school.

But once finances and payment plans are squared away, will you have time to go to school? Bautista says most students coming from the workforce ask, "How will I fit this into my life?" She helps students apply for classes and retrieve past academic records, both of which can be tricky, especially if you haven't been in school for a while.

At Thomas More, classes meet once a week in a lock-step format. Students decide which night of the week they want to take classes, and they then have class on that day, and that day only, for the rest of the two-year program. The college currently offers an accelerated program with a concentration in management. In fact, many schools offering adult and continuing education make business and management classes readily available.

Other Tristate area colleges are adjusting and creating classes to meet adult students' needs and schedules. NKU has the Program for Adult-Centered Education (PACE), which enables working adults to still earn a bachelor's degree in four years. Classes in the program meet one night a week for eight weeks instead of the usual 16, meaning intensive classes. Students cannot take more than two classes at a time, but if they also take summer classes they'll be on track to getting their degree in time. PACE offers degrees in organizational leadership and business administration.

Carole Beere, associate provost for outreach and dean of graduate studies, states that NKU has a "very strong commitment to meet the needs of adults."

She says the program is particularly successful because of an enriched atmosphere that's due to students being older and having already been in the workforce.

NKU, like many schools, is also going the online learning route. The university currently offer a few masters programs online, such as a Master of Arts in Education, which Beere suspects will be particularly popular with teachers.

The online classes are asynchronous, which means they can be accessed at any time. This is especially useful for students who have jobs that require them to travel. Now they can log in and take the class from across the street or across the world.

NKU also made all of their graduate programs available at night and part-time.

"We recognize many of our students were employees before they became students and are still employees," Beere says.

Krapp points out how companies and communities can benefit from enriched adult students. "It's a joint responsibility between the employee and the employer," he says. But to what degree an employee actually participates can vary. Some employees don't want to continue their education. "The enlightened employees know they have a responsibility to themselves and their families to continue their learning," Krapp adds.

Miami, UC, NKU, Thomas More and Xavier offer MBAs and other advanced degrees.

Thanks to the schools' varied plans, you have plenty of options. Changing course or enhancing peripheral skills are also options, though payment for that will probably come from your own pocket.

Companies might chip in for language lessons or classes in computer technology, but they might not be too keen on paying for a PhD in philosophy.

NKU can bring learning programs straight to the customers, taking programs to corporate sites. The university currently is teaching an MBA program at a local company, at the company's invitation.