Debt-free degrees: separating the grain from the chaff | Edcor

Debt-free degrees: separating the grain from the chaff

The student debt crisis and barriers in upskilling that Corporate America faces have led to the overdue emphasis on making post-secondary education affordable to an extent that there are either zero or minimal costs to employees while completing their higher education. The term coined for such programs is ‘Debt-free degrees’.

This reminds me of a famous Nelson Mandela quote “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

The Debt-free degrees concept is not at all novel to us or the education sector. Many Edcor school partners have historically offered programs at the annual Tuition Assistance (TA) benefit limit, which leads to degrees over the course of studies. Nonetheless, Debt-free is being advertised and perceived in many different ways in the marketplace. To help understand this, here is how to separate the grain from the chaff.

Before we delve into what Debt-free means for working professionals, let’s first clear the air out about what they do not entail.

Debt-free degrees are NOT:

  • Low-cost degrees from non-accredited or low ranking online-only colleges
  • Available from only a certain number of colleges within the network of certain providers
  • Available for a limited number of degree and course options
  • Learning pathways that limit your freedom to select schools and degrees
  • Degrees that involve spending your entire TA with the same college

The popular notion that learners can’t acquire quality education without student debt sounds ludicrous to me. At Edcor, debt-free degrees are offered by many of our esteemed school partners as well as available as a customizable solution from any school that the Client chooses to upskill its workforce from. These are all regionally and nationally accredited higher education institutes that have high brand recognition in the industry, and track records of providing top-quality education. Moreover, our Advising services help the learners stretch the tuition assistance dollars further by enrolling in the Global Digital platform that builds 100% transferrable credits for degree completion. As a result, our Client-employees are able to complete their degrees 30% faster than average – mostly with zero debt!

So, this is what Debt-free degrees mean in our world:

  • Zero-cost degrees from highly reputed colleges with flexible pedagogical pathways to support each learner’s unique journey.
  • Agnostic approach to schools leading to prioritization of Client workforce development needs.
  • Complementary Advising services that are focused on the learner’s lifestyle and preferences in selecting the school, degree, program, and major that suit their career trajectory the best and guide them through the shortest path for successful course completion.
  • Freedom to choose from more than 10,000 programs from 2000 schools. Or go to schools that fit the employer’s workforce development plan.
  • Flexibility to build credits with prior-learning experience and fill gaps in credit requirements at a low cost from the Global digital platform at Pearson – an Edcor partner – leading to higher and quicker degree completion.

How are Debt-free degrees designed financially?

These are designed such that the school scholarships or grants cover tuition over and above the employer contribution of $5250+. Most debt-free degrees are designed keeping in mind the employer’s annual tuition assistance benefit limit, which is $5250 for most employers. A higher or lower benefit is observed in some industries and companies based on their strategic intent for their education benefits. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that tailored programs can be designed that lead to degree completion with zero out-of-pocket costs for employees.

Each year the learners take the chosen courses and credits. The majority of costs are covered under the annual tuition assistance, and the balance sponsored by a grant or scholarship from the school. Over the course of study, the learners attain a degree. The tuition assistance dollars are reimbursed either each term or year-end based on course completion and requisite documentation submitted by the employees. The courses or credits covered by the school grants are billed at zero dollars, thereby offsetting the tuition costs. Several employers have now put in place deferrals or a direct bill or voucher mode of payment for these courses, which translates to them truly incurring zero out-of-pocket costs. This is particularly beneficial for the diverse populations who shy away from going back to school due to financial constraints.

What are the administrative burdens of making these degrees available to employees?

None, if you are using a worthy third-party education benefits administrator.

Edcor has years of experience in offering standardized and customized Debt-free degrees. Additionally, we also have the flexibility to narrow the schools to a specific network of targeted educational institutions based on the Client’s talent management or workforce planning strategy – without the pay-to-play model with selected colleges or institutions. Edcor’s solution is fully customized to the Client’s needs. If a large portfolio of schools with full choice for your employees is preferred, we can accommodate. Or as mentioned previously, we can limit the focus to a set number of schools. We can also accommodate a combination of the two based on targeted populations.

Our service is built on a combination of 40 years of tuition industry experience and expert knowledge paired with an easy-to-use benefit portal and a comprehensive advising platform. The main purpose is to help employees all become educated consumers of higher education including finding options for low-cost and debt-free programs. There are no institution restrictions, as the primary objective is to find an institution that best fits the employee’s personal and professional goals, prior learning and on-the-job experience, financial ability, and preferred mode of learning. By leveling the playing field for all employees, completion of their education becomes an attainable goal – no wonder our graduation rates are the highest in the industry.

So, Let’s Future Together!

Adrienne L. Way  Adrienne Way, CEO, Edcor

Edcor is a woman-owned business and is the benchmark in education benefits administration. For 40 years, our customized service and solutions have allowed Fortune 1000 Clients to use education benefits programs for employee recruiting, retention, and development. Please feel free to reach out to us!