Their view: Everyone wins when higher education and business collaborate

Joseph J. Grilli - Guest Columnist

It is no secret the business community is constantly looking for advantages to remain ahead of its competition in our global economy.

Advantages, though, come in many forms: Research and development, enhancing logistics, retaining the best and brightest employees, growing efficiencies and developing a solid, well-rounded workforce just to name a few.

Another avenue is through the development of partnership agreements between institutions of higher education, and public and private businesses that offer reduced tuition in exchange for preferred recruiting status. The emergence of these arrangements began in earnest in the early 2000s, but the movement has gained significant momentum over the past few years.

Consider this:

• Chrysler is offering free tuition to more than 100,000 employees at its automobile dealerships.

• Starbucks and Arizona State University recently expanded its standing tuition assistance program to include all four years of college for every employee.

These types of agreements are not restricted to private companies. Consider this one: the U.S. Office of Personnel Management signed a pact with Champlain College to offer a discount rate exceeding 70 percent for online programs. More than 2 million federal employees are eligible for the discount. There are many other examples, which became possible thanks to the emergence of online learning and the disappearance of location as a barrier to attending the college of choice for adult learners across the country.

Why are colleges motivated to offer deep discounts for online programs? Boosting enrollment through corporate friendly agreements is a way for institutions to generate revenue, while legitimizing their ability to deliver high-quality academic programs at a low cost over a significantly expanded geography.

Corporations also are motivated to attract more of its employees to take advantage of continuing education because it means improved employee performance, enhanced job satisfaction and improved loyalty to the company who sponsors these types of partnerships. In a recent study by Noel Levitz, a consultant for higher education, employees who continue their education while working full time are happier on the job, are the best producers and are more likely to stay with the company than their counterparts who do not attend school.

For universities, developing ideal corporate partnerships require a strategic approach in selecting a partner that shares similar missions, values and a record of accomplishment of providing programs that support career growth and achievement.

Eduventures, a higher education research and advisory firm, recommends that corporate partners should align with institutional mission. Any agreement ought to provide a corporate tuition rate that allows the institution access to employees through direct marketing via the company portal, an open invitation to employee benefit and career fairs, and perhaps an opportunity to work with management to develop specific academic programs, courses and workshops in response to specific needs.

The Misericordia University Office of Corporate and Institutional Recruitment offers a dynamic corporate recruitment program, forging agreements with regional companies that serve the needs of the employee, company management and university. The corporate recruitment office has developed an annual plan for each partner, creating multiple opportunities to engage with employees through direct marketing, social media and face-to-face engagement.

Each company operates under a set of policies regarding employee access. A well-thought-out plan that’s tailored with the company’s human resources representatives assures company policy and procedures are reflected and adhered to as recruiting plans are fully supported by management.

These arrangements are a definite win-win for businesses and employees, alike.

Joseph J. Grilli

Guest Columnist

Joseph J. Grilli, M.P.A., D.P.A., is the director of Corporate and Institutional Recruitment at Misericordia University in Dallas.

Joseph J. Grilli, M.P.A., D.P.A., is the director of Corporate and Institutional Recruitment at Misericordia University in Dallas.