Employment and Jobs

Local College Partnerships in Education Benefit Programs

February 14, 2023  • Haley Glover

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It is not surprising that many national companies choose to partner with large, predominantly online colleges and universities through their tuition benefit programs. These institutions, including Southern New Hampshire University, Purdue University Global, Western Governors University, and others, have models that are appealing to working learners, and they have internal operations that are appealing to employers. These institutions are bending the curve in higher education innovation, with some offering exclusively competency-based education, which enables students to progress at the speed of learning rather than time, and most offering frequent start times, shorter terms, and progressive transfer policies for those with previous higher education experience.

Further, whether companies self-administer their education benefit programs or use an intermediary, these comprehensive institutions offer the opportunity to negotiate once on behalf of thousands of students rather than working with many institutions.

These models have been buoyed by dramatic shifts in how students and employers think about online education. Bucking the trends reported by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, showing declines in enrollment across both four-year institutions and community colleges, predominantly online institutions have continued to grow. The pandemic hastened higher education’s adoption of substantive online programming, with nearly all recent graduates in the last couple years having completed at least a portion of their coursework online. Employers also signaled shifts in how they view online education, with 75% reporting they are more likely to hire applicants with online education since the pandemic and more hiring managers indicating that online learning is more important than before the pandemic.

But as important as these institutions are, and as attractive as they are to working learners, predominantly online institutions enroll only about 15% of students. Community colleges, regional comprehensives, and flagship institutions continue to serve most learners. And some national employers are finding unique value in working with colleges and universities located in the places where their employees live and work.

This brief explores national employers that have intentionally partnered with local institutions, and highlights the organizational structures and strengths that contribute to highly effective partnerships between large employers and their institutional partners.


Keeping talent investments local creates motivation and deepens the relationships between employers and the community. Read more from @upskillamerica.

By investing locally, corporate education programs are not only investing in local students, many of whom will stay local, but in the institutions that support the education and advancement of the entire community.

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