How Does JetBlue’s New Employee College Tuition Program Compare To Others?

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Just like a 401k, health insurance, and other benefits, more and more companies are offering to pay for employees’ college education — or at least part of it — as a way to keep them on the payroll. Joining the increasingly growing list that includes Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Anthem Insurance, and Fiat Chrysler, JetBlue announced today that it would offer crewmembers a program to obtain a college degree. 

JetBlue on Monday announced it would put its own spin on the employee-sponsored education programs by focusing on crewmembers’ full-time schedules and previous professional experiences with its new JetBlue Scholars initiative.

The program, which is a partnership with Thomas Edison State University, will provide employees with a college degree through a so-called “unbundled” approach that awards credit for previous college courses, aviation experience, military training, and professional certificates.

Under the JetBlue Scholars program — which focuses on self-contained and self-directed online courses — crewmembers will only be responsible for $3,500 in tuition, while the company, along with grants and scholarships, will cover the remaining costs.

“Crewmembers asked for help earning degrees and we knew we could take a big step beyond tuition reimbursement,” Bonny Simi, founder of JetBlue Scholars, said in a statement. “We rethought the employer’s role in investing in education.

The program is not available for all JetBlue staffers seeking to obtain a college degree. To participate in the program, you not only need two years of experience at the airline, you must have also already earned 15 credits at an accredited two- or four-year college. That’s about a single semester of full-time classwork, so you’d ultimately have to figure that into the total cost for your education.

JetBlue pilot and dispatch training is reviewed and may be approved for college credit. Additionally, college credit is granted for pilot, dispatch and maintenance certificates, as well as training and licenses in the fields of medicine, first response, human resources, information technology, and military training are also eligible for college credits.

Actual coursework will be done through three online platforms. Once a crewmember has earned 114-117 credits, they will begin completing a final course through Thomas Edison State University. When 120 credits are obtained, the employee will receive a bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State University.

So far, 400 JetBlue employees are taking part in the program, with additional crewmembers eligible to join the program periodically.

While JetBlue claims to take an unconventional approach to the employee-sponsored education program, other companies have also used nontraditional means to help employees obtain degrees. Here’s a quick comparison of programs from Pizza Hut, JetBlue, Anthem, Fiat Chrysler, and Starbucks:

Company College College Type Costs Eligibility
Anthem College for America at Southern New Hampshire University Not-For-Profit Private University Up to $5,000 annually • work 20 or more hours per week
• employed by the company for at least six months
Fiat Chrysler  Strayer University  For-Profit N/A  • pay an undisclosed fee
• full- and part-time employees who work at least 30 days for FCA or dealership
• provides credit for previous training and work experience
JetBlue  Thomas Edison State University Not-For-Profit Public University Students must pay $3,000 • must have 15 credits from previous college courses
• work for JetBlue at least two years
• students will be granted credits for previous training, courses, and on-the-job experience
Pizza Hut Excelsior College Not-For-Profit Online University Employees and family members receive a 45% discount on undergraduate tuition. Graduate students will receive a 15% discount. The company will pay up to $5,250 per year in tuition, books and fees for each salaried, full-time corporate employee participating in the program.  • Pizza Hut Area Coaches and General Managers are eligible to receive credit for their on-the-job training and experience.
• full- or part-time employees, equity or franchise, salaried or hourly
Starbucks  Arizona State University Not-For-Profit Public University (and online) • eligible employees can received 100% tuition coverage for a four-year degree — Starbucks will pay 58%, while ASU will pay 42%.
• full tuition for a spouse or child of a veteran or active-duty servicemember working at a store
 • spouses and children of employees who are military members
: All U.S.-based, benefits-eligible partners employed by Starbucks-owned businesses — including Teavana, Evolution Fresh, La Boulange,— who do not yet have a bachelor’s degree


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