What Brown Can Do for Employees

By Pamela Babcock Sep 1, 2009
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August CoverSince 1997, United Parcel Service (UPS) has provided $350 million in tuition assistance to 225,000 employees through programs covering all full-time nonunion and part-time management employees regardless of work location, and part-time hourly employees at select locations. The particulars of the benefit vary according to location, employment type and business unit.

For all full-time employees, the company's tuition assistance program offers $5,250 annually and $25,000 over the employee’s lifetime.

The company’s Earn and Learn program for part-time hourly workers at its larger metropolitan locations provides $3,000 annually and $15,000 over the employee’s lifetime. The Earn and Learn program for part-time managers offers $4,000 annually and $20,000 over the employee’s lifetime.

Both UPS’s general tuition assistance program and its Earn and Learn program for part-time employees cover associate, undergraduate and master’s degrees and a broad range of opportunities. “We cover every major from zoology to astronomy,” says Patrick Myers, who started with the company 25 years ago and is now UPS’s compensation manager. “Our open-ended programs are very generous as far as what people are allowed to study.”

For full-time nonunion employees, reimbursement for master’s degrees is limited to management employees, and applications for reimbursement are reviewed “within a career and succession planning discussion framework by UPS managers,” Myers says.

UPS says the program gives it an edge in attracting people to work at odd hours; many of the estimated 125,000 part-time workers are college students who work at loading facilities during the night.

At most UPS locations, eligible part-time employees can take part in tuition assistance from their first day on the payroll. Full-time employees must stay two years after course completion or else pay back the tuition assistance.

In conjunction with several air and ground hubs, UPS also offers degree programs through Metro College in Louisville, Ky., the Chicagoland Regional College Program in southwest Chicago, the Consortium Program in Philadelphia and a systemwide online baccalaureate program through Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, N.J.

Myers says UPS’s programs allow the company to identify talent early in the employment process as part of “our overall movement toward increasingly sophisticated human capital management systems, benefit program rationalization, return on investment and employee satisfaction measurement.”

Until the mid-1990s, the program was decentralized and managed in-house. In 1997, administration was consolidated and outsourced to Edcor, a Pontiac, Mich., learning services provider. In 2006, General Physics, an Elkridge, Md.-based global performance improvement company, was added. Both run an all-electronic web-based application, approval and reimbursement processes for UPS.

“The key to effectiveness in managing tuition programs is to make sure you utilize spin-off information,” Myers says. “If one of our employees is attending school, has completed three calculus courses with A’s, then we ought to have a plan for that person. The challenge is to make sure you data-mine what’s at your fingertips to ensure this information translates to recognition activities surrounding retaining that employee. UPS tuition programs provide a key tool in retaining the talent required to move our customers’ packages through an increasingly complex system.”

The author is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.

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