Education benefits: How should employers help with college?

College had always been a goal for Charletta Thomas.

Ms. Thomas didn’t doubt she was smart enough. Her barriers were external – tuition and time. She’d married not long after graduating from high school in 1981, had three children soon after that, and then had gone to work for McDonald’s to make ends meet after her marriage ended.

She started as a bookkeeper, and currently supervises training for a chain of 44 McDonald’s restaurants in southern Louisiana. But after 27 years at a company with education benefits – benefits Ms. Thomas pitches to other employees – she still hadn’t taken advantage of them herself.

Why We Wrote This

While U.S. employers often tout benefits that promise to subsidize a college education, most workers can’t tap them. Listening to students – and tailoring options accordingly – could change that.

“I always wanted to go to college, but, like I say, life happened,” she says. “It had always been a life purpose to get that done.”

It was peer pressure that made the difference. Her colleague Hillary Dixon, a kitchen supervisor then studying for her Master of Business Administration degree on McDonald’s’ dime, wanted to know why Ms. Thomas wasn’t in college.