Starbucks recently made headlines by announcing it was offering employees a four-year college degree at Arizona State's online program for a reduced cost.
But some KELOLAND employers have recognized the value of offering an education benefit for years, not only to their employees, but also their company.
Adam Bossert works as a full-time production supervisor at Raven Industries. He also has a young son--but he's still going back to school part-time to finish up his degree.
"I think the degree opens a lot more doors. Longer term, it speeds things up and gets you more real-world knowledge," Bossert said.
Bossert is able to afford to get his business degree at USD, thanks to Raven's tuition benefit, which will cover $4,000 a year for undergraduates and $5,000 a year for graduate students.
"Between my family and work, going part-time the $4,000 covers everything I need," Bossert said.
Workers must be with the company for six months to take advantage of the program. Right now Raven has 40 employees using the tuition benefit, with the majority pursing undergraduate and technical degrees. Raven says it's a good recruitment and retention tool.
"With our team members pursuing education it helps the company because we're able to grow them into other roles within Raven Industries and it really supports our growth initiative as we continue to expand the company. It readies our team members for different roles," Raven Director of Human Relations Nicole Freesemann said.
One unique thing about the Starbucks college degree program is that employees don't have to pay it back or are not required to stay on with the company for any period of time. At Raven employees who use the education benefit must remain here for at least a year so they don't have to pay it back.
"I don't think a year is unreasonable," Bossert said.
Raven's tuition program, along with the opportunity to advance, also helps build employee loyalty in people like Bossert who hope to get into management one day.
"When I started as an employee I thought, 'Oh that's cool.' But now that I've been here, it really makes me want to stay here," Bossert said.
While Raven employees can choose their school for tuition reimbursement, Starbucks is only offering reduced tuition at a single online university, for the first two years of study. Starbucks will reimburse full tuition after graduation for the second two years, for employees who work 20 hours or more a week.