MGM Resorts looks to bet on free tuition benefits for employees

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MGM Resorts International is looking to broaden its educational benefits beyond its tuition repayment assistance program.

The global entertainment company announced that it has teamed up with the Nevada System of Higher Education to offer its U.S. employees a free online college education through NSHE schools.

The participating schools include University of Nevada Las Vegas, University of Nevada Reno, Nevada State College, Great Basin College, Western Nevada College, College of Southern Nevada and Truckee Meadows Community College.

MGM Resorts will seek approval for the program — dubbed the College Opportunity Program — from the Board of Regents Sept. 7, at which point more information will be available, according to the company’s announcement. It did not say which employees would be eligible, though MGM Resorts has approximately 70,000 U.S. employees.

MGM Resorts’ CEO Jim Murren touted the company’s focus on making education affordable and accessible for its employees. “As the American workforce continues to evolve, I believe in higher education as a pathway to the middle class,” he says in a statement.

If it receives approval for the program, the casino operator will join a string of other companies that have recently introduced free educational opportunities for employees.

For instance, Disney just this month announced that it is offering full tuition for its hourly workers who want to earn a college degree, finish a high school diploma or learn a new skill. Discover also announced earlier this summer that it will offer free college tuition at three universities for full- and part-time employees who work at least 30 hours a week. And Walmart in May said that its 1.5 million employees can now pursue associate’s or bachelor’s degrees in business and supply-chain management at three nonprofit schools for $1 a day.

As competition for workers intensifies, more employers are adding or expanding tuition and other educational assistance programs to help lure new recruits and keep employees from leaving, human resource managers say.

In addition to the anticipated new educational program, MGM Resorts teased upcoming enhancements to its tuition repayment assistance benefit, which will increase to a maximum of $4,000 a year, beginning in 2019. It will also launch a new student loan repayment plan that will match a portion of employees’ monthly student loan debt payments.

“We are focused on reducing the financial burden on our employees while increasing access to professional growth opportunities,” Murren says.

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