Pre-Case study: Degree-Building Cohorts

Degree-Building Cohorts

Note:  This is one, in a series, of pre-case studies that demonstrate how your organization can create learning cohorts.

Executive summary:  This organization was looking for way to improve its employee satisfaction while developing systems and process to ‘grow their own’ future, skilled employees. A business learning unit was formed to provide both internal learning events and external academic partnerships.

Describe the problem:  Employees used their tuition reimbursement benefit, but it was done so at a variety of colleges and universities.  The organization wanted to both increase college degrees while having some leverage on the costs of tuition. The tuition reimbursement benefit was becoming cumbersome and difficult to manage.  Employees were taking courses from a variety of local and national colleges and universities.  There was no way to monitor the quality or comparative cost.

In this particular program, the company wanted to design a set of college courses that would help employees complete the general education courses needed.  It planned on then providing employees with a degree program that would benefit both the employee and the university.

ID Corporate and business strategy:  This organization wanted to create college learning opportunities for all of their employees.  The corporate training unit was tasked with moving that strategy forward.

Major Problems:  Employee interest, internal accounting, classroom space, quality control of faculty,

Details on the implemented solution:  The company identified a local university provider that was willing and able to create a set of college courses that would satisfy the general education requirements for many bachelor degree programs.

The learning unit worked to market the degree-building program to employees. The classes were to be held at the company’s location(s) one night per week in the evenings.  The initial response from employees was modest and included an attrition rate that potentially impacted the viability of the program.

The company negotiated substantial tuition discounts with its university partner.  The partner was able to direct bill the company for tuition for each employee participant.  In addition, the university relied on using the company for program marketing, classroom space, and on-site support.  The university provided the company with dedicated support staff from the university.

Outcome:  The organization was able to slowly grow the program in its first 2-3 years.  Early attrition problems subsided as the employee base started to recognize the opportunity – and a more interested set of employees started enrolling in the program. Subsequently, employee interest peeked to the extent that the company had to double the number of cohort groups it offered.

A single, company-endorsed bachelor completion program and a specialty associate degree program were developed and offered to employees. Both were well received.

Substantial tuition cost savings were documented.


About Gary Stocker
Since 2004, I have developed more than a dozen academic partnership programs with 7 different universities. I have developed the web site: to share the tips, systems, and processes that were used. Theses partnerships include certificate, degree-building, degree programs for a major midwestern health care system. Examples of the academic partnerships include, MBA, MHA, RN to BSN, MSN, Allied Health, and Nurse Case Manager.

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