Employment and Jobs

Models of Upskilling: College Degrees

June 1, 2017  • UpSkill America & Jaime S. Fall

Amazon Career Choice Program

The Amazon Career Choice program is designed to help employees complete certificates and two-year programs of their choice in an in-demand career path. After an associate has been employed by Amazon for as little as one continuous year, the Amazon Career Choice Program will pre-pay 95 percent of tuition and fees for him or her to earn a certificate or associate degree in a high-demand occupation, such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies, and nursing, among others, regardless of whether those skills are relevant to a career at Amazon. In-demand career paths are determined using labor market information sources such as the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Onsite classrooms play an important part in assisting workers to successfully complete their programs, even if this means a complete career change and leaving Amazon.

Anthem Free College Degree Program

Anthem Inc., one of the nation’s largest health benefits companies, offers any of its 55,000 benefits-eligible, full- and part-time associates the opportunity to pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree at no cost through College for America at Southern New Hampshire University. The program offers a competency-based online curriculum that is engineered to help employees fit a fully accredited college degree into their busy lives as working adults.


In June 2018, Boeing launched new workforce development programs, an online network of resources designed to make learning more accessible to employees at all levels of the company. A new partnership with Degreed.com will provide employees with access to online lessons, certification courses and degree programs. The investment will also fund several programs to help employees enhance technical skills and understand industry trends, tools, and technologies. Boeing also made a $6 million investment in the future technical workforce through a partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and several Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The strategic investment will support scholarships, internships, and immersive “boot camp” programs to help students experience what it’s like to work at Boeing. The company plans to announce additional employee education investments later in 2018.

Brinker International and Pearson Partner to Offer No Cost Education to Chili’s and Maggiano’s Employees

Brinker International, owner of Chili’s Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy, has partnered with Pearson to offer a comprehensive educational program for employees, called Best You EDU.

Best You EDU was designed to meet Team Members where they are on their educational journey, offering three main components: Foundational, GED, and associate degrees.

  • No cost Foundational Program: Provides language, skills development, and bilingual coaching in a mobile-first environment.
  • No cost GED Program: Provides online GED prep curriculum, bilingual advisory support, and unlimited test-pass GED credential guarantees.
  • No cost associate degree: Provides an online pathway to an associate degree in business or general studies through a regionally accredited college, including all courses, text and study materials, and advising and coaching support.

The program was designed to eliminate as many barriers to educational attainment as possible: time, money, access, support, and foundational issues such as language and literacy.

Chipotle Bachelor’s Degree in Business Program

Chipotle partners with Bellevue University and Guild Education to provide its employees the opportunity to earn an online bachelor’s degree in business in 18 months. Classes fit into workers’ schedules and are designed to help them grow in their careers with Chipotle. The program is part of Chipotle’s educational assistance program, which provides up to $5,250 a year in tuition assistance and a Guild Education personal success coach who helps students enroll in classes and apply for financial aid.

The Discover College Commitment

In June 2018, Discover announced a significant new education assistance benefit that provides all eligible US-based employees the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree online from an accredited public or non-profit private university at no cost. Known as The Discover College Commitment, the benefit covers tuition and required fees, books, and supplies needed to complete select online degrees at one of three schools – the University of Florida (via UF Online), Wilmington University, and Brandman University. The benefit has no tenure requirement so employees can start participating as soon as they want regardless of how long they have been with the company, including new employees on their first day. Discover launched the program through the Guild Education platform. As part of the benefit for Discover employees, Guild provides academic counseling to help employees find the program that best fits their educational and professional development.

Disney Aspire

In August 2018, The Walt Disney Company announced the launch of Disney Aspire, an education program for 80,000 hourly employees in the US. The program includes a network of schools that offer a wide array of disciplines and diplomas—including college and master’s degrees, high school equivalency, English-language learning, vocational training, and more. The company covers 100 percent of the cost of tuition, application fees, books, and materials. Aspire gives employees choice and flexibility with their studies, regardless of whether the program and classes they choose are tied to their current role at Disney. Disney has partnered with Guild Education to provide personalized coaching for participating employees.

Fiat Chrysler Degrees@Work

Employees, as well as their family members, of Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, and FIAT dealerships can earn no-cost, no-debt college degrees through Strayer University’s Degrees@Work program.

Hotel Industry Free College Degree Program

The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation, the foundation arm of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, launched a pilot program to offer streamlined degree programs to hotel industry employees in partnership with Pearson’s AcceleratED Pathways program. Through this initiative, ten hotel companies will engage employees across 1,500 hotel properties, allowing them to pursue higher education pathways at no cost to the employee.

JetBlue Scholars

JetBlue Scholars provides crew members an opportunity to earn a fully accredited college degree with the company covering most of the cost. The program helps full-time crewmembers who have already earned some college credits by offering college advisement and resources, alternative college credit options, and tuition reimbursement. JetBlue Scholars staff advisers help crew members navigate the path to degree completion and receive credit for previously earned professional certificates, reducing the time to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Kroger’s “Feed Your Future” Education Support Program

Lower federal taxes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enabled Kroger to introduce Feed Your Future, which offers associates an employee education benefit of up to $3,500 annually ($21,000 over the course of employment) toward continuing education and development opportunities including a high school equivalency exam, professional certifications, and advanced degrees. As part of Feed Your Future, Kroger is also introducing a new educational leave of absence that allows associates to take time off work to focus on approved studies, while maintaining a role with the family of companies and their seniority.

Lyft Offers Employees College Advising and Tuition Discounts

Lyft drivers will have access to personalized college advising and tuition discounts for thousands of classes, certificates, and degrees from more than 80 online nonprofit universities and learning providers. Programs include bachelor’s and master’s degrees, certificates in subjects such as Data Science and HTML, and other skills such as GED, vocational courses, and English-as-a-second-language.

ManpowerGroup’s “MyPath” Program

ManpowerGroup’s MyPath program allows employees to earn their high school equivalency or college degree at no cost. The program includes a full college tuition coverage program offering eligible US associates the opportunity to pursue a college education through Western International University, along with career counseling to help associates make career choices that are right for them. MyPath provides associates with assessment, guidance, development, and an education that positions them for career opportunities with Manpower in the US. In 2017, ManpowerGroup expanded its MyPath program through a partnership with University or Phoenix to offer more degree courses in a wide range of in-demand subjects including cybersecurity, information technology and health administration. In 2019, ManpowerGroup announced it was expanding the program to include support for high school equivalency through the General Education Diploma (GED) program.

McDonald’s “Archways to Opportunity” College Degree Program

Through Archways to Opportunity, McDonald’s gives employees the chance to earn a college degree. The program helps them to explore educational opportunities and gives them the financial support needed to puruse their education.

Perris, California, “Civic Scholars” program

The City of Perris, California, is giving city employees the opportunity to earn a free college degree. The partnership with Study.com, Civic Scholars, offers participants a bachelor’s degree pathway at no cost to the student. The online program allows students to access course materials at any time, giving them the convenience to complete the program on their own terms, even those with full-time work schedules and family obligations. Participants are paired with academic coaches to guide their progress. As of August 2018, 19 City of Perris employees are enrolled in Civic Scholars, and Study.com is looking to expand the program to other municipalities.

Starbucks College Achievement Plan

The Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a collaboration with Arizona State University, offers Starbucks employees the opportunity to pursue their choice of over 70 online undergraduate programs. All benefits-eligible U.S. employees may participate, and employees who have served in the military are able to extend the benefit to their spouse, domestic partner or child. In addition to full tuition coverage, this program offers support in the form of dedicated coaches and advisors and 24/7 tutoring. As of Spring 2018 the Starbucks College Achievement Plan has over 10,000 participants and more than 1,700 employees have graduated from Arizona State University.

UPS’ Metropolitan College

Metropolitan College is a Kentucky partnership between UPS, The University of Louisville, and Jefferson Community and Technical College. Participating students get their full-time undergraduate tuition paid to The University of Louisville or Jefferson Community & Technical College, as well as book reimbursement money, bonuses, and other benefits. The program doesn’t require workers to pay tuition upfront and 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”. Since its founding in 1998, Metropolitan College “has helped more than 5,000 night-shift workers earn certificates or degrees.” Learn more at metro-college.com.

Walmart’s $1 a day education benefit

In May 2018, Walmart unveiled a new associate education benefit designed to remove barriers to college enrollment and graduation. In partnership with Guild Education, Walmart associates will be able to access affordable, high-quality associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in Business or Supply Chain Management offered through University of Florida, Brandman University, and Bellevue University. The associate contribution would be just $1 a day. Walmart will subsidize the cost of tuition, books, and fees, eliminating the need for student loan debt and addressing one the biggest hurdles that keep people from returning to college. In addition, associates can jumpstart their path to completion by earning college credit for paid training at Walmart Academies. Hundreds of thousands of associates have already undergone skills training equivalent to more than $210 million in college credits.

Walmart and Walmart.org are supporters of UpSkill America, an initiative of the Economic Opportunities Program.



Learn more
Employment and Jobs
Models of Upskilling
June 1, 2017 • UpSkill America & 1 more


Table of Contents
Employment and Jobs
UpSkilling Playbook for Employers
June 1, 2017 • UpSkill America & 1 more