Free Perk: More companies willing to pay for your college degree

Updated: Jan. 4, 2019 at 4:52 PM CST
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(KSLA) - It’s not a secret that college tuition is becoming more expensive and the cost of college is rising faster than wages.

In Louisiana, the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and according to the U.S. Dept of Education, the average cost of tuition at a four-year college is more than $12,000 per year. In Texas, the minimum wage is also $7.25 but college costs more than $15,000 annually. Arkansas workers just got a bump in their minimum wage making it $9.25 an hour, but tuition still costs an average of $13,000 per year.

The good news is that some companies recognize the burden that paying for a college education can have on families, and they’re starting to do something that’s out of the norm. Instead of requiring new employees to have their degree before starting the job, some companies are offering a new benefit, free college tuition.

In the past, companies have offered tuition-assistance as perks for their employers. However, for most people paying out-of-pocket, waiting for reimbursement is not an ideal situation. Many people are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and minimum wage in Louisiana remains at $7.25 an hour which makes it more difficult to even consider paying for tuition out-of-pocket.

Walt Disney Co., Discover Financial Services, Walmart and Yum Brands Inc’s Taco Bell all contribute to college funds.

According to Walt Disney’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Jayne Parker, their program offers “employees maximum choice and flexibility with their studies, regardless of whether the program and classes they choose are tied to their current role at Disney."

In this Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, photo, The Walt Disney Co. logo appears on a screen above the...
In this Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, photo, The Walt Disney Co. logo appears on a screen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The Walt Disney Co. reports earnings, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. <a class="story-feed" href="" id="storyFeedprev"></a>

Disney and Walmart cover 100% of tuition, however Walmart asks its employees to contribute just $1 a day.

“Investing in the personal and professional success of our associates is vital to Walmart’s future success. We know training and learning opportunities empower associates to deliver for customers while growing and advancing in their careers,” said Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S.

Discover offers two different tuition reimbursement benefit programs:

  • The  Discover College Commitment Program is a full-ride college education benefit,  providing U.S.-based employees the opportunity to participate in one of several select high-quality, fully paid, online bachelor’s degrees. The  benefit covers tuition and required fees, books and supplies needed to  complete select online degrees at one of three schools, the University of  Florida (via UF Online), Wilmington University and Brandman University. 
  • Discover’s In-Network Degree Assistance, Discover covers 90% of the  annual tuition costs (that remain after grants and student aid have been  applied) up to the following annual caps: $5,250 for an  Associate’s/Bachelor’s Degree; $10,000 for Graduate Degree. Employees can  also take advantage of deferred tuition at any of Discover’s in-network  universities. With tuition deferment, employees can get started right away  and pay only 10% of the tuition cost at the end of the term.

Other employers will foot the bill for you to go to school, too.

  • Chipotle offers hourly workers who have 12 months of continuous employment a 90% tuition, books and fees reimbursement. Salaried workers get the same offer, but there is no requirement for them to put in 12 months before they can take advantage of this benefit. 
  • Verizon employees are eligible for up to $8,000 a year in tuition reimbursement. Coursework must be related to Verizon’s business.
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken offers their hourly employees and shift supervisors with at least six months of service, the REACH Educational Grant Program. Selected managers receive $3,000; eligible previous REACH Grant recipients receive $2,500; first-time winners receive $2,000. The current application period is February 1 – March 28, 2019. Winners are selected by a competitive application process and may reapply each year. 
GF Default - Plans submitted for new KFC
GF Default - Plans submitted for new KFC
  • McDonald’s offers the Archways to Opportunity program. McDonald’s Tuition Assistance covers eligible course expenses (such as your tuition and fees) that are not covered by scholarships or grants. 
  • AT&T employees can receive up to $8,000 in tuition assistance annually.
  • Pizza Hut partners with Excelsior College to offer the Life Unboxed EDU program. Employees and family members are eligible. 
  • Starbucks offers the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. Every benefits-eligible U.S. employee working part- or full-time receives 100% tuition coverage for a first-time bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program.To find out how you become eligible or if you qualify for the program go to
The coffee chain has been announcing a ban for years. The tool is expected to roll-out next year.
The coffee chain has been announcing a ban for years. The tool is expected to roll-out next year.

According to, here are seven other ways to attend college for free:

  1. Grants and scholarships
  2. Give service to your country
  3. Work for the school
  4. Waive your costs. Some students can get a free pass based on academic performance or other factors
  5. Become an apprentice
  6. Have your employer pick up the costs
  7. Be in demand! Another great way to find out how to go to college for free is to determine if your field of study is “high-needs," such as nursing.

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