By Guild Education CEO & Co-Founder Rachel Carlson
A year ago, The Walt Disney Company launched the Disney Aspire program, offering their hourly employees and Cast members the chance to go back to school at no cost to the employee. With 290+ program and certificate offerings, employees have a choice in programs ranging from Bachelor’s in Computer Science to Skilled Trades Diplomas, and from English Language Learning courses to MBAs. It’s perhaps the most diverse education benefit programs in the country, setting a standard many companies have already attempted to emulate. We at Guild were excited to be part of that launch and proud to continue to team with Disney as Aspire grows.
Today marks the first anniversary of Disney Aspire, and I’m thrilled to report that of the 90,000+ eligible Cast Members and hourly employees, more than 40 percent have signed up to learn more about the program and 8,000+ have enrolled. With 8.8% of employees taking classes in just this first year, that’s record-breaking engagement for programs like this. To meet the exciting demand for Disney employees, we’ve also added five new providers since the launch: the University of Florida, Valencia College, the University of Central Florida, the University of Arizona, and language classes from Rosetta Stone.
One thing that stands out for me about Disney is how they’ve worked so hard to remove barriers that keep students from going back to school. As a part of the program design, employees and Cast Members have a choice in a wide variety of programs and providers whether or not the degree they pursue is related to their current role. Moreover, Disney shares our commitment to offering programs that support the schedules and lives of busy, working adults.
Disney’s goal of this program is to help put dreams within reach, and by providing students with a way to attain their educational goals debt-free, they’re helping thousands of people reach their educational and career dreams. People like Alex Finley, who is earning her BS in Software Design and Development from Wilmington University, who says Disney Aspire lets her take control of her future: “I’ve always been a dreamer. Taking steps to the future is what makes me happy. Knowing I’m providing a better future for myself is satisfying.” Or Heather Souza-Dupuy, who is attending the University of Denver getting an MS in Leadership and Organizations and sees Disney Aspire allowing her to “better myself in my career and will hopefully open more doors for me professionally so that I may better provide for my family.”
At Guild, we’ve specifically appreciated the partnership with Disney to go above and beyond to eliminate the barriers that prevent students from going back to school and to provide the support they need to succeed. And as part of that support, Disney students are getting a helping hand throughout their academic journey through Guild’s advisors and education coaches. We recently had the opportunity to hear from a Disney Cast Member and student Erica Wray, a mother of two who had always wanted to return to school but hadn’t had the opportunity or support before the Disney Aspire program. She is now earning a BS in Psychology and speaks to the value her Guild coach brings: “I love knowing my coach is here with me. Any questions — they’re always checking in with me and making sure I’m doing ok. It’s nice to have that kind of friend who knows what you’re going through, who understands and has the capability to help.” We know that individual support for students like Erica is a foundational piece of the puzzle that will help Disney Aspire continue to break down barriers for all students.
Please join me in congratulating the Disney team and the thousands of Disney Aspire students on an incredible first year! Here’s to bringing dreams within reach for many more at Disney in year two!