Employment and Jobs

Now Hiring, With Attractive New Perk: Free College Degree

January 2, 2019  • Kelsey Gee

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 several of our partners. This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

Some of America’s largest companies are proposing that a good job can lead to a free college education, reversing the norm that requires workers to get the degree before launching a career.

Walt Disney Co., Discover Financial Services and Yum Brands Inc.’s Taco Bell are among the high-profile employers sending front-line workers back to school, often paying the cost of tuition, fees, books and other expenses upfront and in full. The companies say the benefits of a content and potentially better-trained staff outweigh the costs.

Many large employers have long offered limited tuition-assistance perks to staff, reimbursing up to the federal tax-exempt maximum of $5,250 a year—after the student successfully completes course work. For most people, though, paying out-of-pocket and then waiting for the company benefit to kick in later proved too much of a barrier, said Jon Kaplan, Discover’s vice president of training and development.

The cost of a bachelor’s degree from a four-year U.S. institution averages $33,000 a year, according to the Education Department. Guild [Education, a Denver startup that brokers deals between companies and colleges,] said that by providing schools a large number of part-time and full-time students, it can negotiate the total price down to between $6,000 and $10,000 in some cases, including technical support and academic advisers designated for company employees.

Working adults are going back to class for programs ranging from two-year associates to masters of business administration degrees. Their ranks range from line cooks and theme-park workers to midcareer managers, for whom the price tag put the degree out of reach, companies and university officials said.

In the tightest labor market in decades, Disney, Discover and other companies say covering the full cost of college can help them hold on to valuable talent that has become more expensive to attract.

This piece was excerpted from “Now Hiring, With Attractive New Perk: Free College Degree” by The Wall Street Journal’s Kelsey Gee. Click here to read more.


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#Upskilling is a smart investment. Learn why companies like @Discover, @tacobell, @WalmartInc, & @WaltDisneyCo are helping their employees pay for education.

“We want to create upward mobility for our employees and, more than anything else, for people to be able to look ahead and see greater opportunity than they had before.” @RobertIger, Chairman/CEO @WaltDisneyCo

“If this program helps some employees graduate college and go on to have a bright future career elsewhere… that’s an awesome downside to have.” -Jon Kaplan, VP of training & development @Discover


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