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Corporate Investment in Higher Education Pays Dividends for Students—And Our Economy
Many college graduates in the United States leave college with their hands full – one holding a degree and the other carrying their college loan statement. That post-college debt load averages close to $27,000 per graduate, according to a recent report by the Institute for College Access and Success.
Fortunately, some corporations across the country are committed to easing that financial burden. For the past 35 years, The Toro Company has partnered with Scholarship America’s Scholarship Management Services (SMS) to contribute $2.5 million in scholarships to nearly 850 children of the company’s employees. SMS, the nation’s premier third party administrator of education benefit programs, makes it easy and efficient for foundations, individuals and corporations like The Toro Company to provide for the education-based financial needs of employees and students in the communities where they live and serve.
Like Toro, many major employers are investing in our future workforce. Best Buy has awarded $20.7 million in scholarships to more than 16,500 students since 1999. Target, as part of its commitment to give $1 billion to education by the end of 2015, gave more than $3 million last year in Target Field Trip grants. The grants help K-12 teachers bring learning to life outside the classroom by covering field trip costs at more than 5,000 schools across the country.
Many corporations will tell you that in addition to being the right thing to do, supporting education through scholarships and grants is also good for business. Best Buy’s scholarships support high school students, specifically teens who are major technology users. The awards are open to customers, members of the community, employees and children of employees. Corporate scholarship programs build connections in the community and help grow a local, educated workforce.
While the contributions of corporate partners are impressive, current scholarship and educational support programs help only a fraction of students with financial need.
The average total cost of higher education attendance in the United States last year for first-time, full-time students living on campus and paying in-state tuition was $20,100 at public four-year institutions and $39,800 at private nonprofit four-year institutions. That number is expected to increase, with tuition rising roughly five percent annually nationwide. Meanwhile, budget constraints have slowed the growth of public and private funding for education.
The result: The average student’s college debt has increased more than five percent in the past year alone.
The effects of this rising burden extend well beyond the livelihood of students. Corporations thrive on a well-educated workforce, but rising student debt loads could put this precious resource in jeopardy.
By investing in higher education, corporations can take a leadership role in continuing to obtain a stable economy for our country and creating prosperous futures for millions of our citizens.
While college enrollment rates continue to rise in the U.S., degree attainment has remained stagnant, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Only about 57 percent of first-time, full-time students pursuing bachelor’s degrees end up graduating in six years or less.
So why are so many of the nearly 2.8 million students who enroll in some form of higher education not proceeding straight to graduation? The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s report, “Education at a Glance 2010,” states that the reason may be twofold: (1) juggling family commitments, a job and classes is too difficult; and (2) the financial burden is simply too great.
It’s easy to dismiss college dropouts as those who just can’t “hack it”. But the reality is that most students who drop out differ significantly from their degree-attaining peers:
- Nearly 6 in 10 get no help from their parents in paying tuition. Among those who get degrees, more than 6 in 10 have tuition help from their families.
- About 7 in 10 of college dropouts say they have no scholarship or loan aid, versus only about four in 10 degree-earners who go without such aid.
- Four in 10 dropouts have parents with nothing beyond a high school diploma, while 7 in 10 of the college graduates have parents who have completed at least some college work.
- More than 50 percent of dropouts have household incomes of less than $35K, compared to less than one-third of college grads.
Companies that invest in human capital – including education and training for their employees – can reap multiple benefits, including:
1. Greater return on investment. Education brings a higher quality and more efficient workforce, not to mention a better attitude, and greater motivation, leadership and communication. (“Human Capital Investment Through Education & Training,” Houston Chronicle, 2012.)
2. Better employee recruitment. Employers who invest back in their worker’s future by helping them grow their careers through further education and training may have better incentives than a job offering more money. (“10 Reasons Why Companies Should Invest More In Management Training,” Forbes, Sept. 10, 2012.)
3. Better employee retention. All people prefer to work for an employer who enables them to partake in interesting and meaningful work. The possibility of a promotion or a raise is enticing to employees, and if professional growth is encouraged, employees will be more likely to stay. (Forbes, 2012.)
4. Higher quality employees. Companies greatly benefit from having qualified workers who are able to complete tasks, understand the work and are more confident in the workplace. (Forbes, 2012.)
5. Superior future workforce. Corporate scholarship programs build connections in the community and help grow a local, educated workforce.
Excerpted from Scholarship America's weekly blog, The Scholarship Coach
Every year, an increasing number of students pursue some or all of their college education online. Whether it's at online-only schools or through distance-learning programs from traditional colleges, these Web-based programs offer a wide array of options and a ton of flexibility—especially for part-time, returning, and nontraditional students.
If they're from properly accredited institutions, online credits can help you earn your general requirements faster, and if you're looking for a mid-career change, you can pursue a new degree during one or two nights a week. Fortunately, the increasing presence of online degrees also means an increase in scholarships geared specifically toward online students.
First and foremost, many general scholarships and federal financial aid programs can be applied to tuition at accredited online institutions. Check out the resources at studentaid.gov to find out more, and be sure to talk with your college's financial aid office about available options. We'd also recommend finding a few alumni to talk to; it takes a little more work for online campuses, but it's worth it.
Once you've decided to pursue distance learning, and you've checked out your grant, loan, and general scholarship options, it's time to delve into specifics. The GetEducated.com Distance Learning Scholarship is an excellent place to start. Offered twice a year, with application deadlines on March 15 and October 15, this $1,000 scholarship is open to students anywhere in the United States who have a 3.0 GPA or better in an accredited online degree program.
To apply, you'll need to write a 500-word essay on what your degree will mean to you. And while you're on the site, check out GetEducated.com's other resources, which include guides to various degree programs and lists of known scams.
The SR Education Group's Guide to Online Schools is another excellent resource for researching distance learning programs. And, just like GetEducated.com, they also sponsor their own set of scholarships. Currently, there are four $2,000 scholarships available: the Military Scholarship, Women's Scholarship, Community College Scholarship, and Single-Parent Scholarship are awarded every two months with rolling deadlines, so check the site out to find out when you need to apply.
To find out about programs at specific schools and more, visit The Scholarship Coach on the US News & World Report website. The Scholarship Coach is written by Scholarship America and updated every Thursday.
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