Reporting on the connections between education and work

Company-sponsored bachelor’s degrees for community college students

Under project led by GetSet Learning, companies will pay for bachelor’s degree completion—if students commit to work at sponsoring companies for two years.
(Sean Pollock/Unsplash)

Note: This article was updated on April 15, 2022 to reflect new information. The original version said Deloitte was a partner in GetSet Learning’s new initiative, as had been publicly announced on LinkedIn and at an event featuring a managing director from Deloitte.

Deloitte subsequently sent this statement: “Deloitte and the Deloitte Foundation have no relationship with GetSet or its program described herein.”

(GetSet’s announcement of the Sponsored Degrees initiative has been edited, but you can view the original at the bottom of this article.)

A new partnership seeks to enlist companies to pay for community college students to spend two years finishing their bachelor’s degrees at Arizona State and Northeastern Universities—in exchange for a two-year work commitment with the sponsoring employers.

The big idea: The project led by GetSet Learning seeks to reimagine how companies hire more diverse—and loyal—entry-level workers. Corporations often pay staffing firms $25K or more to replace each employee in high-turnover fields, and the new effort will redirect those dollars to a college degree completion program.

GetSet is a Chicago-based company focused on student retention. It will recruit participants who are second-year community college students or who hold 60 college credits.

As a first step, companies will connect participants with an online microinternship—a paid, asynchronous work project of 10 to 20 hours on a platform such as Parker Dewey. Those businesses then will be able to recruit students who complete the microinternships to offer them “sponsored degrees” from either Arizona State University or Northeastern University:

  • Students will pay no tuition or fees for the last two years of the degree program and will be able to choose from the wide range of online degrees offered by the two initial partner universities.
  • In exchange, students typically must agree to work for at least two years at the sponsoring employer after they graduate.

The all-in cost for the degree programs and student supports will be just under $25K per participant, according to GetSet. Students will be on the hook for those costs—which are being financed by Stride Funding—if they quit their job in less than two years.

The benefits of a guaranteed job and covered tuition to earn an online degree from ASU or Northeastern will be strong, the project’s leaders argue. And companies are likely to recoup most of their investment with what they save in employee recruitment and retention.

“The model is exciting because it does have the potential to scale,” says Kemi Jona, assistant vice chancellor of digital innovation and enterprise learning at Northeastern. “There’s skin in the game on both sides.”

GetSet will prioritize recruiting lower-income students who are Black, Latino, or Indigenous. 

The partnership’s potential payoff for learners was a draw for ASU, says Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of the university’s learning enterprise. She described the project as a “way to grow economic mobility and pathways for students.”

Other colleges and universities are seeking to join the effort, says Karan Goel, GetSet’s CEO and cofounder. Likewise, he predicts major employers in several industries will sign up, including ones in cybersecurity, IT, K-12 education, and accounting and finance firms.

A focus on careers is hardly new for Northeastern, a pioneer in cooperative education. But Jona hopes the sponsored degree model provides a template for helping more underserved students make the transition to a job.

The Kicker: “For many, many years it’s been a four-years-and-throw-them-over-the-wall model,” he says.

This article originally appeared in The Job newsletter on April 7, 2022. It was changed on April 15 to reflect new information provided by Deloitte. A public announcement of the Sponsored Degrees initiative and a related event incorrectly said that Deloitte was a partner in the project. A screenshot of the announcement by GetSet’s founder and CEO, which has subsequently been changed, is below.

LinkedIn post by Karan Goel, GetSet Learning’s founder and CEO, announcing its new Sponsored Degrees initiative.
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