- Lori Lewis, Director of Education Programs, The Walt Disney Company
- Angel Iverson, Director for Career Foundations, Career Connections Center, University of Florida
Opening Remarks: Evie Cummings, Assistant Provost and Director, UF Online
FCAN Host: Kathy McDonald, Assistant Director for Network Partnerships
One of the important ways students pay for college is by taking advantage of employer education benefits, particularly for adult learners. Employers invest in education programs as part of their talent development strategy that benefit workers who realize that no degree or credential is “one and done.”
On June 8, Part V of FCAN’s “Paying for College” webinar series highlighted the evolution of education benefit programs and how employers — including The Walt Disney Company — are using some of these perks to improve their own bottom line.
Evangeline Cummings, Assistant Provost and Director of UF Online, delivered the webinar’s opening remarks and spoke about partnering with employers like The Walt Disney Company to serve students of all ages.
“The college student of today is not the college student of yesteryear,” Cummings said. “We’re going to have to pivot to welcome students who are coming in at any life stage.”
Investing in employees
Each year, employers make a sizable investment in their workers’ education. According to Georgetown University, employers spent $177 billion on formal education for employees in 2015, with $28.3 billion (or 16%) spent on tuition reimbursement alone.
The investment appears to be paying off, for both employers and their employees. A 2019 survey of 30,000 workers found:
- 84% believe the skills or degree earned through their employer helped to prepare them for the future of work.
- 76% said tuition reimbursement makes them more likely to remain at their organization.
- 64% said their continued education earned through employer’s tuition reimbursement program made them more effective employees.
Additionally, these programs can have a positive impact on their communities: 70% of parents said their family benefited as a result of the skills or degrees acquired using a tuition reimbursement program offered by their employer.
The evolution of education benefits
The education benefits provided by employers have evolved over time to best meet talent development needs.
While tuition assistance gets the most attention, some other education benefits are on the rise, including “student loan repayment assistance,” which doubled from 4% of employers offering the benefit in 2018 to 8% in 2019.
Angel Iverson, Director for Career Foundations at the University of Florida’s Career Connections Center, leads a team that provides recruitment coaching for hundreds of employers each year, resulting in about 10,000 employment connections.
While education benefits offered by employers continue to grow and evolve — a report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) found that 83% of the organizations polled offered some sort of educational assistance for its employees — Iverson says it’s important to be thoughtful and purposeful when developing these programs.
“You have to evaluate all of your offerings holistically,” Iverson said. “Are you thinking about the ‘why’ of this benefit, not just the ‘what’?”
Get to Know: Disney Aspire
In 2018, The Walt Disney Company launched one of the most comprehensive and innovative education benefits programs, Disney Aspire, a debt-free education investment program available to its full-time and part-time hourly employees. The program covers 100% of tuition at in-network schools and reimburses application fees, along with required books and course materials.
Lori Lewis, Director of Education Programs for The Walt Disney Company, said it was important for Disney Aspire to empower participants to pursue a wide range of educational and career opportunities.
“There are tens of thousands of different stories of why people come to work for our company,” Lewis said. In addition to college degrees and trade certificates, Disney Aspire offers participants high school completion and English learning opportunities. “This is a program for people who join Disney and are really excited about putting their career dreams within reach through education.”
In order to reduce barriers for its employees, hourly workers at Disney need to only work in their current role for 90 days before becoming eligible for the Aspire program. Lewis also noted that the courses and programs do not need to be related to an employee’s role at Disney.
“This is really all about the individual, whether they stay or end up outside of Disney,” Lewis said. “We want to offer programs that people can succeed in and that align to the future of work.”
FCAN thanks the following for their generous support of this webinar:
To learn more about education benefits offered by employers — or to view the webinar and download the presentation — take advantage of these resources:
About the ‘Paying for College’ webinar series
Students and their families are often confused by the myriad ways to pay for college. How to bridge the gap between family funds, financial aid and the total cost of paying for college? Funding their college education shouldn’t be a mystery. This webinar series breaks it down so you can help reduce confusion for the students you guide. Having a better grasp of the funding landscape can help students build a sound plan to pay for their postsecondary education.