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Employers’ new strategy: Come for the work, stay for the college tuition

Kristin Schwab Sep 13, 2021
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Companies like Target are offering free college to its workers. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Employers’ new strategy: Come for the work, stay for the college tuition

Kristin Schwab Sep 13, 2021
Heard on:
Companies like Target are offering free college to its workers. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The newest way retailers are trying to attract and retain workers? Free college. Amazon is offering free tuition for front-line workers. Target and Walmart recently announced similar programs.

Free tuition programs are often about the numbers. Rachel Carlson is the CEO of Guild Education, which manages education benefits for companies like Chipotle and Lowe’s. She said companies that offer these programs have double the retention rate.

“That means it’s more affordable to educate Maria or Susan than to replace Maria or Susan,” she said.

She said the average worker who enrolls in education assistance is about 32, a woman of color and often a mom.

Oded Guarantz, who teaches the economics of education at the University of Missouri, said company sponsored-tuition takes away some of the risks for workers.

“The more that we create an option value for college, where people can kind of option in and try it out and to the extent that it actually could actually let them earn a college degree, it could be really beneficial,” he said.

He said could because there are hurdles. Some companies reimburse tuition, so workers front the cost. Others require them to pass courses.

“They might sign up for a course and it might be difficult for them to complete it and be successful,” he said.

Which means instead of a certificate or degree … they could be left with debt.

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