AHLEF partners with Pearson to offer debt-free college degrees for hotel workers

Higher education is perceived as prohibitively expensive, but the AHLEF and Pearson Education want to dispel this illusion. Photo credit: Getty/monkeybusinessimages

The hotel industry is locked in a constant struggle to find quality, talented employees, which is why the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation wants to help hotel workers get back in the classroom.

The AHLEF is partnering with Pearson Education, a British education and publishing assessment service, to launch streamlined degree programs to hotel industry employees. Through a partnership with Pearson’s AcceleratED Pathways program, hotel companies will be able to manage tuition and education benefit programs to match employees with an online degree program at an accredited community college or university. This will allow them to complete an associate or bachelor’s degree, and in many cases they will be able to use existing college credits to jumpstart their education.

James Homer, EVP at Pearson, said the company recognized low levels of participation in the program from those in the existing workforce, something he referred to as “not a small issue.”

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“Employers are spending approximately $22 billion a year on tuition assistance, but fewer than 5 percent of employees are taking advantage of these programs,” Homer said. “We needed to identify the reason employees were taking advantage of these programs at low rates. The perception that education is prohibitively expensive is a factor. The AcceleratED Pathways program is designed to systematically eliminate these barriers in terms of programs offered and what reimbursement programs are available.”

Homer said there will be no out-of-pocket costs for employees seeking degrees at the associate level, and will allow for inexpensive degrees at the bachelor’s level. Currently, 10 hotel companies, including Wyndham Hotel Group, Red Roof Hotels and Hersha Hospitality Management, have signed on to include employees across 1,500 hotel properties in the program.

Homer also pointed out that this program was designed for workers seeking to further their education, which is why there are currently five different start times for enrollments. Workers will have to consult their company to determine when they are able to enroll.

“The flexibility component can’t be overemphasized,” Homer said. “We run multiple starts right now to address the needs of adult earners. This is not a semester-based construct.”

“We could not do what we do without a strong, talented workforce,” Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, said in a call this morning. “Our industry exemplifies the American Dream, fostering development, upward mobility and exciting lifelong careers. Today’s announcement builds on a legacy of resources and training the hotel industry provides to our employees, and we are excited to give working adults in the hotel industry a more affordable and flexible education, and helping employers to attract and retain talent in the process. This is a win-win.”

For more information on Pearson’s AcceleratED Pathways program, visit here.

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