According to a 2014 report from Complete College America, a nonprofit group based in Indianapolis, just 19 percent of full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years at public universities. The stats are even worse at community colleges, where five percent of full-time students earn an associate degree within two years, and just 15.9 percent earn a one- to two-year certificate on time.
Some of why students are taking longer to graduate centers on the lack of a clear planning, changing majors, changing universities, and taking unnecessary courses, suggests a variety of research. But Rachel Carlson, the cofounder and CEO of Denver-based Guild Education, says there are plenty of non-academic factors at play, too, including soaring tuition costs and shift work that can interfere with community college class schedules.
Indeed, to help those many students who are working their way through college, as well as help companies that recognize the importance of helping employees realize their full potential, 16-month-old Guild partners with employers including Chipotle to offer education as a benefit, right alongside healthcare.
How does it work? The IRS already allows for employers to offer up to $5,250 annually of tax-free education to help any employee as long as the benefits “are provided by reason of their employment relationship.” Employers can also pay beyond $5,250 if they like, though employees generally have to pay tax on the additional amount. (Qualified employees can also apply for an additional $5,815 in available federal grants.)