- The Walt Disney Company is expanding its education plan, adding Purdue University Global and Southern New Hampshire University to its network of schools, according to a Jan. 8 announcement. Eligible employees may now pursue degrees in cloud computing, digital photography, legal studies and higher education administration, among other offerings, the announcement said.
- The education program, called Disney Aspire, is 100% tuition paid and in partnership with Guild Education. According to the announcement, more than 12,000 students have enrolled in classes and 500 have completed the programs since Aspire’s launch in August 2018.
- Disney said it has committed $150 million to fund Aspire over the first five years of the program, and "will add up to $25 million more each year after that."
Employer education offerings have expanded to include programs that go beyond the expertise businesses need, and Disney’s new offerings reflect that shift. Education benefits, more broadly, have gone through a rebrand; they now serve as an employee perk that can attract employees and entice them to stay, rather than as just an upward mobility tool or branding exercise for the company.
The model used by Aspire — and Guild Education more broadly — has attracted attention for to the “debt-free” education employers offer their workers. But employers that have bought into this style of programming also tout the accessibility of the model, noting that it is built for adult learners and includes coaching to ensure those enrolled stay on track.
Learning programs like Aspire’s may continue to expand. An analysis of benefits published in November showed that education benefits, including employee scholarships, student aid and student loan benefits saw the biggest boost in usage rates among employees in 2019. Employees have made clear their desire for more learning and development at work, even beyond college tuition offerings. But not all employers are delivering; only 46% of employees surveyed by City & Guilds Group said their employers provided on-the-job training in the past year.