An Increasingly Popular Job Perk: Online Education (CHE)

June 2, 2015

A partnership between Southern New Hampshire and Anthem Inc., a health-insurance company, will allow some 55,000 Anthem employees to earn associate or bachelor’s degrees through the university’s College for America, a competency-based assessment program.

The announcement is one of several recent deals between a college and a corporation that will expand higher-education opportunities for employees at no or reduced cost, following a high-profile deal, announced last year, between Starbucks and Arizona State University. On Monday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced a similar arrangement with Strayer University.

Max Woolf, a senior analyst at Eduventures who has written about corporate partnerships in higher education, said that big-name partnerships announced in the past year had broken the ice for other companies to seek similar deals.

Anthem employees who work at least 20 hours per week and have worked there for at least six months will be eligible for the tuition-remission program, which will cover the full cost of their degrees.

Free online-learning benefits could help companies retain more highly trained employees and help colleges and universities increase their online enrollment, Mr. Woolf added. His recent researchshowed that just 6 percent of online students enrolled at the urging of their employer, though many employers say their employees aren’t fully prepared to join the work force, he said.

“The adult-learning population is primarily self-directed today, but with these corporate partnerships, they can be more employer-directed in the future,” Mr. Woolf said. He added that the growth in online learning had shifted tuition-remission programs from regional employers and colleges to global and national brands.

“If you look at Starbucks and Arizona State, they’re very innovative, forward-thinking companies on the leading edge,” he said. “There are going to be a lot more employers who are looking for the right partner institution.”

About Ryan C. Fowler

Ryan is a curricular fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington D.C. He also teaches at Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster Theological Seminary.
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