ASU and Uber team up to offer free tuition to drivers

Photo courtesy of Uber

Some people become rideshare drivers to supplement their income; others get behind the wheel in hopes of turning it into a full-time job, acting as new-age self-employed contractors; and some people are getting in the driver’s seat to save enough money to go to school. Now, Uber drivers in Arizona can take advantage of a financial and educational partnership offered by the San Francisco-based transportation tech company.

Uber plans to partner with Arizona State University to offer drivers and their families free tuition, allowing them to earn undergraduate degrees through ASU Online courses. Would-be students can also take advantage of this partnership by taking non-degree courses through the university’s Continuing and Professional Education program.

The partnership comes at a time when continuing education programs for working adults are soaring. Just recently, Grand Canyon University expanded its C.E. programs, and major universities like Purdue University are even offering online programs for adult professionals. The partnership seems to be a trend for ASU as it already has something similar in motion for employees of Starbucks. This opportunity seems to be custom-fitted for those looking to further their education while driving for Uber, given its online flexibility.

“Flexibility is foundational to our two enterprises,” noted ASU President Michael Crow and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a joint-bylined opinion piece. “We believe there is an opportunity to bring the power of our platforms together to expand access to flexible work and flexible education, and opportunities that come with both.”

“Both Uber and ASU are dynamic, entrepreneurial enterprises that have embraced new technologies and influenced this changing world,” said Phil Reiger, dean for educational initiatives and CEO of EdPlus. “Both are committed to pioneering new opportunities to help workers get ahead and provide for themselves and their families. Together, Uber and ASU are partnering to expand opportunity for workers and their families. We are doing this out of a shared belief that flexibility, adaptability and the capacity to learn new skills are critical qualities to advance and succeed, today and in the future.”

The program does come with some boundaries. Drivers looking to go back to or begin school need to have at least 3,000 rides and achieved platinum or diamond status on Uber Pro, the new rewards system Uber just unveiled. Drivers can look at it as a points system, essentially, moving them closer and closer to free college.

Unlike the Starbucks partnership, the Uber program lets drivers pass this free tuition offer on to their family members, including a spouse, domestic partner, child, sibling, parent, legal guardian or dependent.

Phoenix is one of eight locations where Uber is testing out the program. Other locations include Chicago, Denver and New Orleans. The choice to offer the program in Phoenix highlights the bond the Phoenix area has with the tech company.

ASU will require Uber drivers who want to partake in the program to fill out financial aid forms and use existing programs, such as Pell grants. Whatever bill is left over after aids and grants will then be covered by Uber.

“At Arizona State University, we’re exploring new pathways to reach the changing demographics of today’s students. We are committed to expanding access and opportunity for students and workers in various stages of their lives and careers, much like we have done with Starbucks and will do with Uber,” adds Regier.

Nick Esquer

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