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Lowe’s offers workers debt-free college education

Lowe’s announced today that it will join other major employers in offering debt-free college education to its workers. The company, headquartered in Mooresville, NC, will partner with Guild Education to deliver educational benefits. The program is available to both full- and part-time employees.

Through Guild, employees will have access to more than more than 80 degree programs at the associate and bachelor’s degree levels, and more than 40 master’s degree, certificate and bootcamp programs. The company will also pay for employees to complete their high school diplomas and college preparation programs.

As with other Guild participants (including Target, Walmart, Chipotle, Waste Management, Disney, Five Guys, Discover and Taco Bell), the Lowe’s debt-free college education benefit will pay 100% of an employee’s cost for “select degree programs.” For non-approved programs, the company will kick in $2,500 per year. About 300,000 people are eligible to participate.

According to the company, it will offer the tuition benefit to “train and retain” employees. Twenty-three institutions (including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI)) will deliver the program. Guild Education also partners with online education providers like Purdue Global and Southern New Hampshire University.

This is another avenue of potential competition for community colleges. Local taxpayers, who have invested billions into building low-cost career and technical education options, deserve to know how our community college – which is not among the select providers for any of these programs – intends to respond.

I’ve said in the past that community college administrators seem woefully unprepared to deal with the realities of smash-mouth competition. (“Everybody has plans until they get hit for the first time.”) Buoyed by a seeming inexhaustible supply of public money, community college “leaders” freely pursue failure-prone strategies without consequences.

Debt-free college education will come at a cost

This happens because the officials we elect to oversee the community college fail to grasp the gravity of their situation. These Trustees seriously believe that WCC “competes” against UM, EMU and any other community colleges within driving distance. Worse, they believe that WCC competes favorably.

Perhaps worst of all, they feel comfortable betting money we’ve authorized for EDUCATION on quasi-private health clubs and hotels. Inexplicably, they’re looking for a payday when WCC is one of the best-funded community colleges in the State of Michigan. (For all the things WCC lacks, money is not among them.)

And when their prize “investment” accidentally burns a cool $4.5M in a year? No problem! They’ll just transfer federal COVID-19 relief funds to cover what amounts to a massive gambling loss.

You can be certain that Purdue Global and SNHU won’t use their operational dollars to fund health clubs and hotels. Unsurprisingly, they will use their operational dollars to fund their operations. In other words, they’ll keep their eyes on the ball. In doing so, they will drain students from WCC while its administration gambles away our public investment in education.

Photo Credit: Mike Mozart, via Flickr