Credit card giant Discover is offering its 16,500 employees the chance to earn a full-ride bachelor’s degree online from three different universities: the University of Florida, Wilmington University, and Brandman University.
Discover says the new program, dubbed The Discover College Commitment, will cover tuition, fees, books, and supplies for U.S.-based employees. The credit card issuer will offer a full-ride specifically for courses in cybersecurity, business, and computer sciences—burgeoning areas that the firm believes could strengthen its own business while also providing a long and stable career for its workers.
And, says Jon Kaplan, vice president of training and development at Discover, the program will help the company attract the kinds of workers it wants while retaining the ones it wants to keep.
“It improves the value proposition of Discover,” Kaplan told Fortune. “It will allow us to retain our most talented employees, and attract those with a passion for self-development.”
The majority of Discover’s employees are eligible, as long as they work at least 30 hours weekly, either part-time or full-time. Only those with conduct issues or severe underperformance won’t make the cut, Kaplan said.
Additionally, Discover plans to cover any income taxes that may be placed on employees due to the program. Due to IRS regulations, employers may only offer up $5,250 in tuition benefits to workers tax-free.
It’s an apt time for Discover to be debuting the program, which first opened up to employees just over two weeks ago. Today, companies worry about a lack of skilled workers.
Unemployment has hit an 18-year low of 3.8%, while the number of job openings grew to exceed the number of unemployed in April. The imbalance has spawned some interesting anecdotes among employers, with some apparently warming up to the idea of hiring less experienced workers or ex-convicts— groups that are often among overlooked.
And not unlike Discover’s own program, retailing giant Walmart announced in late May plans to offer subsidized college tuition for its workers, both online and in-person, at the University of Florida, Brandman University, and Bellevue University.
Still, while this apparent worker shortage puts the negotiating power in the hands of workers—allowing them to pick their employer or better dictate wages, the power balance appears not to have changed quite yet. Employers still staying at their current positions (labor turnover has remained relatively steady in recent months), even though wage growth has remained muted.