This is how innovative partnerships between higher education and business emerge |
Small But Growing Number Of Companies Now Offering Student Debt Relief As An Employee Benefit
The education landscape was already changing before the pandemic. COVID-19 has accelerated changes in the way we work and live, causing an irreversible ripple effect for colleges and universities across the country.
The ever-increasing use of technology and automation in the workplace is pushing businesses, workers and educators to rethink what – and how – our future workforce learns in order to be successful. T
The World Economic Forum predicts that half of all employees will need to requalify by 2025, and the private sector is responding by creating innovative programs that help employees learn these new skills.
Higher education institutions have a major opportunity to collaborate with business to create new opportunities for a wider segment of the population to whom a university education or new skills might otherwise be out of reach.
There are many leaders – myself included – who believe deeply in the value of college education and want to help it evolve to meet the needs of today’s workforce and economy. .
Academic-business partnerships have a long history
Many innovative forms of partnership between higher education and business are emerging.
One example is company training programs. InStride is at the forefront of this trend, working with companies like Starbucks and Uber to help employees without a college degree return to school so they can have more career advancement opportunities in the future.
While it’s true that companies today spend over $ 180 billion annually on internal and external training programs, less than 2% of employees actually use them. InStride is focused on building deeper connections between employers and academia to make an impact.
Of course, university-business partnerships have a long history, but new models to fill specific gaps are emerging, whether it’s the AI-centric collaboration between IBM and MIT or the new link between the University of Pennsylvania and medical device supplier Hillrom to bring “smart” technology to the hospital room.
Appalachian State University and Mars Veterinary Health are now working together to create a rigorous four-year online program for licensed veterinary technicians. The partnership aims to advance the veterinary profession and address the shortage of skilled technicians, particularly in rural areas of the United States.
This can create opportunities for people in communities particularly affected by the recent job cuts, an important consideration as the country seeks to rebuild itself.
Exploitable avenues to afford university
Student debt relief is also a top priority, as student loan debt in the United States reaches nearly $ 1.7 trillion. While most calls for relief have generally been aimed at government action, there are a small – but growing – number of companies, like mine, that offer student debt relief as a benefit to employees.
Banfield’s Veterinary Student Debt Relief Program has contributed more than $ 15 million to help vets pay off student loans since 2017 and has provided more than $ 16 million in student debt refinancing. Among the veterinarians enrolled in the program, we found an 88% retention rate.
The number of companies offering this significant incentive has doubled from 4% in 2018 to 8% in 2019, and we hope that this trend will continue.
Companies that help their employees overcome barriers to higher education receive incredible value in return, including a more engaged, more skilled and better performing workforce. Of course, we cannot do it alone. Business leaders need to join forces with universities to not only promote the benefits of higher education, but also create workable avenues to afford college.
So how can universities help funnel students with debt into internships and jobs at companies that offer these benefits? To go further, what can universities do to capitalize and motivate more companies to make similar financial commitments?
Can universities partner with these companies to encourage other local employers to add student debt relief?
Whether it’s tackling student debt or creating more pathways for adult learners, business and college partnerships benefit everyone. Strategic alliances preserve and promote the tangible and intangible benefits of investing in higher education.
Creating these innovative options helps keep finances out of the equation so people can focus on career development and long-term goals.
Brian Garish is CEO of Banfield Pet Hospital, a network of veterinary clinics based in Vancouver, Washington.