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People who work at Dollywood will soon be eligible for free tuition

Dollywood employees looking to further their education will soon be eligible for free tuition, books and fees for select programs.

The initiative, announced Tuesday, will fund educational costs for all full-time, part-time and seasonal employees of the Dolly Parton resort in Tennessee and other subsidiaries of parent company Herschend Enterprises, which include the Harlem Globetrotters and the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky.

The program, open to the company's 11,000 employees, will officially launch on Feb. 24, the company says.

"Whether it's to pursue a new dream or advance their career with us, we care about our employees' personal and professional growth," said Herschend Enterprises CEO Andrew Wexler. " ... We believe that their futures should be grown with love, not loans."

The initiative, dubbed "Herschend's Grow U.," offers eligible employees free access to more than 100 fully funded diploma, degree and certificate programs offered through Guild's Learning Marketplace. Business administration, finance, technology and marketing are among the programs offered.

The company will provide employees up to $5,250 per year for additional programs in fields including engineering, hospitality, art design and human resources.

"With this program, Herschend is preparing its workforce for the jobs of the future with new skills and mobility opportunities, said Natalie McCullough, president and chief commercial officer of Guild Education.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rina Torchinsky