- Dollar General will provide full-time employees access to employer-paid degree programs at Strayer University and Capella University, it announced April 4. The benefit will come via Workforce Edge, an employee education management platform owned by Strategic Education. Alternatively, the program allows eligible employees to use an annual tuition assistance allocation toward a higher education institution of their choice.
- Employees and their families will also have access to Sophia Learning, an online learning platform that provides general education courses.
- The move will help Dollar General with recruiting and retention, Karl McDonnell, president and CEO of Strategic Education, said in a release.
Employers in industries such as retail and food service have increasingly invested in employee education in recent years.
Many of these high-profile programs are through Guild Education, a provider that connects employees with thousands of programs across a range of institutions. Kohl's recently became a no-cost degree partner with the company, joining others like PepsiCo, Walmart and Taco Bell. But employer-funded education is a rapidly growing space, and Strategic Education — which owns Strayer and Capella — is among those aiming to expand their share of the employer learning market.
Recently, elements of this education model have drawn more criticism. In September 2021, CNBC published a report in which sources noted few employees make use of no-cost degree programs, in large part because they often don't know the benefit is available. HR pros and others noted the importance of internal marketing.
Additionally, sources pointed out the difficulty of balancing full-time work and school and noted the importance of employers embracing the type of flexibility that allows employees to take advantage of the opportunity. "Going back to work and school at the same time is very hard. It involves sacrifice, time management, opportunity cost, and more," Guild CEO and co-founder Rachel Carlson told CNBC. "Have you helped make it more accessible, more feasible, and more supportive for them to do so? Or better yet, are you enrolled in the education program yourself as a leader?"
These additional demands to ensure degree programs are used may be hard for learning leaders — who say they are already burned out — to manage. But improving communications and reminding workers what's available may be a light lift that could result in more uptake.