Higher education needs a transformation. Tuition inflation, increased student debt, and diminished confidence in the value of traditional degrees leave the industry ripe for reimagin­ation. Federal subsidies for 2- or 4- year college degrees have been discussed in the context of a new agenda to increase access to education. However, companies also have the opportunity to play a role by helping increase equitable access to higher education.

Most companies spend more than $180 billion each year on education and training their employees, but they don’t see a significant return on their investment. Instead, most training courses are poorly aligned with business objectives, such as addressing skill gaps or improving employee recruitment and retention.

When enterprise education programs align, employees can access life-changing opportunities through education without the traditional barriers to college. At the same time, companies can achieve their strategic goals by providing employees with the skills they need to succeed.

Most corporate-sponsored training and tuition assistance programs underperform

Among the billions of dollarsthat are spent annually on internal and external training programs, $28billion is allocated for traditional tuitionprograms — usually designed to address employee recruitment and retention — but less than twopercent of employees actually use them.

These programs are just out of date. According to Bain & Co., Survey, 80% of employees are interested in attending school while working, but 40% knew their employer offered a Tuition Assistance Program. Navigating enrollment and financing is difficult enough, ontop of full-time professional responsibilites. Most HR departments don’t have the infrastructure in place for managing every employee’s journey through college. Barriers for employees eventually become the company’s problem because programs are poorly utilized or employees simply choose to quit and look for better employment benefits elsewhere.

Organizations should develop enterprise education programs intentionally.

An enterprise education program should be specific to an organizations’ goals. These opportunities should offer learners multiple options for advancing education, whether through degrees, certificates or credentials. When done right, companies can double their ROI by investing in higher productivity, lower recruitment costs, longer retention and a stronger brand perception for every dollar they spend.

Program development needs to account for a realistic adult learner journey.

After working with more that 34,000 employee-learnerstwo years, I’ve learnedthat the decision to go backto school is justas much an emotionaldecision as it is logical. Students need assistance navigating the entire path from the initial decision to enrolling at their school to defining a clear ROI alongside their employer. Commitment to this lifecycle of support starts at the top with touchpoints actualizing through management, mentorship and connections made to a strong company culture.

 Companies should align enterprise education programs to the broader company culture.

Companies that align education to their culture provide employees the professional meaning and employer relationships they crave. According to the 2020 Brandpie CEO purpose report, this feeling of purpose is a significant motivator for both employees and leaders, which leads to high productivity and long lasting relationships with an employer. Education can provide employees with the meaningful connections they’re looking for with their employers, and ultimately affects workforce recruiting, retention and training needs

An effective strategy for enterprise education involves offering bold business leaders the chance for them to cultivate the workforce they want to be successful in a quickly changing global economy, giving their employees academic experiences through top quality universities across the world and, most importantly, relieving the overbearing burden of student loan debt by providing fully funded access to higher educational opportunities.


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