- Only 2 percent of employees who are eligible for a tuition assistance program actually participate in it, according to a recent analysis by InStride and Bain & Company.
Over three years, 5.8 percent of employees (2,200 people) participated in Cigna Corporation’s tuition assistance program, a Lumina Foundation study found.
If they fail to increase participation rates, time may be a key culprit.
The top reason employees say they are not engaging in workplace learning is because they don’t have the time, according to a 2018 survey on workplace learning
from LinkedIn Learning. Executives and HR managers agreed that “getting employees to make time for learning” is the No. 1 challenge for talent development.
phrases that challenge differently. As Boston, president emeritus of the American Public University System, recently wrote
, entry-level employees “don’t have the time to go to college even if someone is reimbursing them or paying up front for that education.”
Likewise, he says many frontline workers without degrees had negative experiences in high school or college, and often have no desire to resume a formal education.
APUS even offered prior-learning credit to Walmart employees based on their job skills. “Recognizing completed training and competency from job experience is the right thing to do for the student but is complicated, particularly when training changes,” Boston told me.
Before leading the online, for-profit university, Boston was a health-care executive. He says,
“We had undergraduate education benefits available for all of our employees, but very few pursued them. Online education was not available back then, and it was difficult to attend classes at the local community college or university.”
APUS, however, offered Walmart employees asynchronous online courses with monthly starts and assignments that were due at the end of the week. Textbooks were free, and tuition never exceeded the company’s reimbursement. Yet Boston says students still dropped out, saying they didn’t have time for classes because of work and family commitments.
“It’s tough to complete a three-credit-hour college course if you’re working full-time, much less if you’re working 60 to 70 hours a week,” says Boston.
Some employers offer their workers tutoring services and places to study, Boston says. But he is not aware of any companies that give employees paid time off to take college courses. And Boston isn’t optimistic that major employers will help workers find time for their studies.
What do you think?
If you have examples of companies helping employees stick with their studies as part of free college programs, please send them my way
. (I’ll be revisiting corporate tuition benefits often, including in a forthcoming interview with Jonathan Lau
, InStride’s co-founder and COO.)