UpSkill America is an employer-led movement to expand opportunity for America’s workers and allow our economy and communities to thrive. As part of our mission to advance the upskilling movement, we are pleased to share the following news featuring one of our partners.
The following story was originally posted by WDRB.
UPS’ Metropolitan College program has helped more than 5,000 night-shift workers earn certificates or degrees from University of Louisville and Jefferson Community and Technical College since its founding 20 years ago. The program covers tuition and books, providing essentially cost-free college for those who can stick with the upside down world of overnight work and daytime school. For Angelica McBride, a 20-year-old University of Louisville student studying accounting and marketing, the value of the benefit is more than $15,000 a year.
As the program enters its third decade, UPS plans few changes besides boosting its enrollment. Metro College, as the program is known, is a partnership in which UPS and state government split the tuition for the company’s overnight workers. It was born from necessity, as UPS needs thousands of young workers who can show up in the middle of the night to make its global air hub work.
In the 1990s, it wasn’t so common for big companies that employ thousands of entry-level workers to offer college benefits, said Anthony Carnevale, a professor at Georgetown University and the director of its Center on Education and the Workforce. “UPS was an early innovator here,” Carnevale said. “They preceded what is now a fairly substantial and growing movement toward building earn-and-learn programs.”
Since 2012, Walmart, Amazon, Kroger, McDonald’s and Starbucks have all announced new or enhanced college tuition benefits for their employees. A critical aspect for students struggling to afford college, the UPS program doesn’t require workers to pay the tuition upfront and then get reimbursed by the company. UPS also doesn’t restrict the course of study, allowing students to choose any subject, from certificate to masters degree, offered by U of L or JCTC.
Nearly 17,500 UPS night workers have completed at least a semester of coursework since Metro College began in 1998, according to the company. Only 5,107 of them stuck with the program long enough to earn a credential, whether a certificate, associates, bachelors or graduate degree. The number of degree-holders helped by the program is likely higher, but UPS has no way to track students who leave the night shift and go on to complete their education without the benefit.
UPS’ deal with Kentucky to split the tuition for Metro College students was last renewed by state lawmakers in 2010 and lasts until 2027. In 2017, UPS spent $9.8 million on students’ tuition and received $4.5 million back from Kentucky through tax credits. With completion bonuses that UPS pays students as they progress academically, the company has spent more than $100 million on the program since 1998.
This piece was excerpted from “20 years, thousands of degrees: UPS’ college program enters third decade” by WDRB’s Chris Otts. Click here to read more.
Join the upskilling movement