Talent Dividend Work

Financial aid, and consumer education, for working adults

Related Tags

The St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association hosts a board led by senior HR leaders in the business community called the Talent Council. The purpose of the council is to approach talent and workforce needs from the business perspective. They are particularly interested in college education for working adults, but have found that the biggest issue is financial aid for working adults – who, because of career and familial obligations, are usually not full time or even fully part time students and are thus considered ineligible for most financial aid.
The St. Louis Chamber and Talent Council recently released a report based on a two-session series of regional "Dig Deep Dialogues." The purpose of these dialogues was to really delve into the two major questions of college affordability for working adults: What are some of the ways we can help get additional resources in the hands of students to help pay for the price of college? And how can we drive down the cost of college so it doesn't take as many resources?
Blair Forlaw, Interim Vice President of Talent Strategy at the St. Louis Regional Chamber, says that one of their major findings in ways that employers can most benefit their employees is to help them be smart consumers of educational services.

"One of the reasons college is so unaffordable is because [students] don't always make the most cost-effective decisions," she says. "They take classes they don't need because they don't know how to navigate the system. It's really important to be smart consumers."
Forlaw notes that the permanent extension of Section 127 of the IRS tax code, which allows any employee to exclude from their income up to $5,250 in assistance for undergraduate and graduate classes, is also a tremendous help to employees. "If that expired I don’t know what they would do."
Many of the companies that the Chamber works with offer tuition assistance, but another talking point in the regional discussions was how employers can not just help pay for the cost of courses but also pay for other things that students might be able to take advantage of (such as CLEP exams) that would mean they wouldn't have to take classes in the first place. That would mean less expense for the employer and less of a time commitment for the employee.
Additionally, the Chamber is looking at ways of cutting down costs, such as online classes and other uses of technology. For example, a tech-heavy math lab at the University of Missouri in St. Louis has not only dramatically driven down costs but also increased completion rates.
"That's really our approach – drive down cost and help students get resources to help with costs," says Forlaw. "Also education to help students be smart consumers."

Writer: Nicole Rupersburg
Source: Blair Forlaw, St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association

Signup for Email Alerts
Share this page
Signup for Email Alerts