The “natural” order of things is to go to college and then get a professional job — according to our parents, that is. But today, growing tuition benefits at some major corporations are flipping that order, making it easier for employees to first get a job at a big-name company and then start their college courses.
Tuition assistance programs aren't a new or even particularly unique piece of employee benefits packages. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management’s latest employee benefits survey found that 56% of employers in the U.S. offered some sort of tuition assistance for their employees in 2019, usually in the form of a cash reimbursement.
But the newer versions offer to pay up to 100% of their employees’ college tuition up front. And, more importantly, instead of focusing on employees who want to pursue more advanced degrees, these programs mostly target workers who never went to college in the first place. For employees, that allows them to avoid choosing between working and taking time off to earn a degree.
Here are some of the companies that allow you to go to college for free, or very close to it.
Amazon Tuition Assistance
- Pays up to $5,250 a year
- Recently expanded to include bachelor's degrees
- Textbook reimbursement available
Amazon launched Career Choice, its education benefits program, in 2012 by offering to cover 95% of the tuition and fees for certificate and associate degree programs in high-demand occupations, including aircraft mechanics, commercial trucking and nursing. But in 2021, the e-commerce giant expanded its program, offering up to $5,250 toward bachelor's degrees as well. Both part-time and full-time employees can participate in the program. The best part? Amazon brings the classroom to you. The company has built educational spaces within its facilities to make it easier for associates to take both live, in-person courses as well as virtual classes.
Boeing Tuition Assistance
- Pays 100% of the costs of tuition for STEM programs
- Employees can choose from over 300 partner institutions
- Benefit extends to all post-secondary degrees, including PhDs
A global leader in aerospace manufacturing, Boeing has invested over $1.7 billion toward tuition assistance for its employees. The company’s Learning Together program allows employees to earn any certificate or college degree (in-person and online) in select STEM programs without incurring out-of-pocket costs for their educational expenses, including books and any entrance exams. Some of the most popular institutions chosen by employees include the University of Washington and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Employees that complete any associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree while employed at the company are eligible to receive Boeing stocks. Additionally, if you take a flight training course through a partner institution and earn a flying license, you can receive a special payment incentive.
BP Tuition Assistance
- Reimburses up to 90% of the costs of tuition from eligible programs
- Benefit extends to books and other required materials
- You can choose any accredited institution both in-person and online
Unlike most companies, which require employees to work a certain number of hours to be eligible for tuition assistance programs, BP allows full-time employees to participate on day one. The London-based energy company will provide tuition reimbursement for up to 90% of eligible expenses for a degree that aligns with an employee's current position at the company. Eligible expenses include tuition, fees, books, software, exam and certification fees. To get reimbursement, employees must first obtain approval to enroll in the program and complete the course with a passing grade.
Chipotle Tuition Assistance
- Pays for all of the costs of tuition upfront
- Over 75 online programs available
- Reserved for associates and bachelor’s degrees
Chipotle’s Cultivate Education program started in the form of tuition reimbursement, but in 2019, the company partnered with Guild Education — a company that manages corporations’ education assistance benefits — to also offer fully funded college degrees. The company currently pays tuition for more than 75 online programs in business and technology across nine institutions, including Purdue University Global, Wilmington University and Oregon State University. To participate in the program, you must be employed for 120 days and work a minimum of 15 hours per week. Chipotle recently announced that it will add culinary arts, supply chain management, and agriculture to its academic offering later this year.
Discover Tuition Assistance
- Pays full tuition and fees, plus books and supplies for select online business and technology degrees
- Partner institutions include Wilmington University, Paul Quinn College and the University of Florida
- Employees are eligible for this benefit as soon as they’re hired
The financial services company partnered with Guild Education to offer its College Commitment program back in 2018. Through this program, full-time and part-time employees can get a full-ride (textbooks and supplies included) at any partner institution, including, as of 2021, Paul Quinn College — one of the oldest historically Black colleges and universities in the country. Eligible programs include bachelor’s degrees in computer science, business management, business administration, and computer and network security. The company also offers a partially funded program for those who choose to attend a non-partner institution with an annual cap, ranging from $2,500 to $10,000, depending on the degree level.
Disney Tuition Assistance
- Fully covers the costs of tuition for undergraduate and graduate degrees
- Employees can major in any field of their choice
- Textbook reimbursement available
- No requirements to stay at the company after graduation
The most magical place on earth launched its “Aspire” tuition assistance program back in 2018. This benefit is available after 90 days of employment to corporate workers, employees at the company's hotel properties and cast members in the parks. Eligible employees get 100% of their tuition costs for online courses paid upfront at one of the company’s 10-plus partner institutions, including the University of Arizona, the University of Denver and the University of Florida. This benefit covers undergraduate and graduate degrees, plus certificate and trade programs. More than 11,000 Disney employees are enrolled in the Aspire program, with business, hospitality, social science and psychology among its most popular majors.
Papa John’s Tuition Assistance
- Pays tuition at Purdue University Global and University of Maryland Global Campus
- Undergraduate and graduate degrees available
- Offers tuition discounts for the team members’ family
“Apply. Earn. Learn.” That’s Papa John’s new motto, which it has been heavily promoting to spread the word about its Dough & Degrees tuition assistance program. The pizza chain has partnered with Purdue University Global and the University of Maryland Global Campus to help team members earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees without spending a dime on tuition or textbooks. Employees can major in any discipline at both institutions. To qualify, employees must work a minimum of 20 hours a week and be employed for at least 90 days. The company also offers a tuition discount, ranging from 14% to 25%, for employees’ family members who live in the same household.
Starbucks Tuition Assistance
- Covers 100% of tuition and fees for online degrees at Arizona State University
- Over 100 programs to choose from
- No requirements to stay at the company after program completion
One of the first major corporations to announce a full-tuition benefit for all workers, Starbucks first introduced its College Achievement Plan in 2014. Through this benefit, the company pays employees’ tuition for any of Arizona State University’s online bachelor’s programs, which range from arts and design to STEM degrees. To be eligible for the benefit, you must have worked a minimum of 240 hours with the company. Additionally, it must be your first bachelor’s degree. So far, more than 14,000 employees have taken college courses through the program, and 20% of them are first-generation college students. Starbucks has committed to 25,000 graduates by 2025.
T-Mobile Tuition Assistance
- Pays 100% of tuition costs for full-time and part-time employees
- Five online institutions to choose from
- Covers both undergraduate and graduate degrees
Now America’s second-largest wireless network, T-Mobile allows its employees to participate in its tuition assistance program after just 90 days of employment. The program covers all of the costs of tuition and fees upfront, including books, required class materials and software. Full-time employees can choose among five partner institutions: Ashford University, Capella University, Colorado Technical University, Purdue University Global and the University of Phoenix. Part-time employees can also take advantage of this benefit but are limited to the University of Phoenix’s academic offering.
Walmart and Sam’s Club Tuition Assistance
- Tuition costs are paid upfront at partner universities
- Covers associates, bachelor’s and certificate programs for employees after their first day
- Fields of study include healthcare, business, supply chain management and technology
Being part of the same corporate umbrella, Walmart and Sam’s Club both offer the same tuition assistance program called “Live Better U.” Employees can earn a college degree online from six nonprofit institutions, including Brandman University and Wilmington University. In the past, employees were responsible for paying a $1 fee for each day they're enrolled in the program, but as of August 2021, the program is completely free to students. Employees can also earn college credits for taking some of the companies’ paid training courses, allowing them to complete their degrees faster. Additionally, there’s a $1,500 graduation bonus for employees who didn’t have any college education before joining the program.
This story has been updated to correct the list of partner universities for T-Mobile's program. Know of a company that's not listed here? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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