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Private college partners with company to offer employees, family free tuition

Charles DeLoye/Unsplash

The future for some private colleges will come down to their ability to think “outside the [traditional tuition] box,” says Jayson Boyers, President of Cleary University, a small business school based in Howell.

And for Cleary, that means partnering with private companies to allow the company’s employees, and those employees’ spouses, kids, and even grandkids, a free online education. Starting with a pilot program with Team Schostak, which owns some 170 franchise and fast food restaurants around the state with more than 7,000 workers, Boyers says they’re hoping to create “a virtuous circle where everyone wins.”

Team Schostak is marketing this an employee benefit, the modern educational equivalent of health insurance. And the company is hoping it helps attract and retain talent in a tight labor market. While Executive Chairman Mark Schostak says this “not suddenly the solve for all your staffing problems,” it does help at a time when worker shortages are “really, really challenging.”

“If you’re out there and you’re working with us, and you want [an education] not just for yourself, for your daughter, or your granddaughter, as well,” he says. “And it doesn’t have be to in culinary or business or marketing.”

The company has paid for 500 online scholarships to Cleary so far, as kind of a phase one, Schostak says. They’ll see how many employees take advantage of the program before adding more.

“Companies that offer some kind of education benefit see anywhere from 1-3% of their employee workforce go through that,” says Cleary President Jayson Boyers. “But I would be disappointed if we don’t get 10-15% ramped up over the next 12 months with Team Schostak. And then it will grow from there. The reason people don’t start [a degree program] is because of the barriers [like taking on debt or the cost of tuition.] And we’re removing those barriers.”

Even if those employees drop of out of their degree programs or transfer to another school, they still won’t have to pay for the credits they earned at Cleary, Boyers says.

And he says the cost to Team Schostak isn’t all that high – probably about $100 a head. That’s because Cleary is betting most students who participate in this program will also qualify for substantial federal aid, on top of the company’s contributions.

Most critically, the partnership gives the school exclusive access to a group colleges are competing to attract: adults over the age of 23, who are often working full or part-time and more likely to be supporting families. Boyers says they’re no longer “non-traditional students” for schools like Cleary University.   

“[That’s why] these private partnerships with companies are what private colleges need to do,” he says. “Because the population they serve, it's not any more that 18 to 23 [year old student.] It really is an expansion of adults…they are our population. They are our students. We have to find new ways to make this accessible to them that builds our economic model and helps us stay connected to industry.”

Cleary University is already working with additional companies to create similar programs, Boyers says.

This post was corrected on August 5, 2019: the original story described Cleary as a "mostly online" school. In fact, the school says 60% of students attend classes on campus. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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