No-Cost Degrees Are Trending in HR. Here’s Why.

Two young professionals studying for their no cost, free degree program

One of the biggest newsmakers in talent strategies today is the no-cost degree – programs that pay for large swaths of a workforce to earn college degrees at zero cost to employees.  

It seems every week a new one is making headlines. And data like this – showing that hourly employees value career opportunities more than job changes – make a pretty clear case for the appeal, especially among the frontline employees everyone’s fighting over. 

But is that all it can be – a generic, one-size-fits-all carrot that looks pretty?  Could it be more than just for show?  

It can if it’s done strategically.  

Multiple Goals with a Single Strategy

An illustration is our own Horizons Teacher Degree Program

We created it with a specific skillset – and employee population (teachers) – in mind. It’s open to all center employees. There’s no cost to employees, and no waiting period for new hires. The one requirement is for employees to stay with Bright Horizons for 18 months after earning their degree. School partnerships removed financial barriers and made the program cost effective for large numbers of teachers to pursue skillsets that met their goals…and ours. 

The results have been heartening in every possible way.  

Teachers get to pursue a long-held goal that might not otherwise have been available.

Their new skills enhance our centers.

Their achievement connects them to the company. 

Their connection to the company fuels commitment.

Their commitment gives parents and children the continuity of teachers who stay. 

The teachers’ stories become the stories of our brand: 

“Graduating has been a dream come true for me, it has given me new opportunities to grow in the career that fulfills me, which is Early Childhood Education.”

“I truly believe I would not have been able to complete my degree without this program.”

“I have always wanted to work with children and watch them grow and learn. But I also wanted to be the best teacher I can be. So going to school to learn more about teaching and helping each child in any way I can means so much to me.”

“My future aspiration is to get a Master’s Degree and become an Educator Coordinator. I want to spread my knowledge and love for teaching to other teachers and help them create classrooms where children can thrive.”

Since its launch in 2018, we’ve had more than a thousand people sign on. Some have already finished study programs, and we expect to have hundreds of newly minted graduates by the end of next year. 

That’s way more than just for show.

Man studying for online no cost degree at home

No-Cost Degrees: Decoding the Workforce Education Trend [On-Demand Webinar]

Learn why no-cost degree programs are compelling for so many employees and how you can design a program to fit your workforce’s needs. Access our webinar today!

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

February 4, 2020

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.