When Roy McRoberts, 60, graduated from high school, he went into the military instead of going to college. After serving his country, he was busy providing for his family. Although he says he always wanted to attend college, he didn’t think it was a possibility until now.

With a partnership between Cook Pharmica and the Ivy Tech Community College Achieve Your Degree (AYD) program, McRoberts is finishing his second semester at Ivy Tech and it isn’t costing him anything. “It’s an opportunity I never thought would come along,” he says.

McRoberts works as a third-shift team lead at Cook Pharmica and is studying business administration. That’s one of 10 degree pathways Cook leadership has designated for jobs that are going to be in demand at their company, says Jessica Duncan, Ivy Tech AYD program coordinator.

Duncan explains that AYD is an initiative between Ivy Tech and community partners to remove financial barriers so local employees can return to school either part or full time. The upfront costs are deferred until the end of the semester, and employer tuition reimbursement policies pay a percentage of costs or the entire cost, after the disbursement of other financial aid such as state and federal grants.

“It removes that barrier of needing to pay upfront for school,” says Duncan. “We will work with a company to redesign a tuition reimbursement policy that will match the needs of their employees.”

Ivy Tech launched AYD in Bloomington for the 2016 fall semester and has 230 students enrolled. Current partnerships are with Cook, Old National Bank, and Singota Solutions, and Duncan says the goal is to grow that partner base.

Katie Smith, human resources director at Cook, says her company pays for all tuition, fees, and textbooks for employees who maintain a grade C or better. “Providing people an opportunity to grow with a company and have a career they can rely on helps build financial stability for employees and their families,” she says. “This in turn impacts the community in a positive way.”

McRoberts says he can’t believe anyone wouldn’t want to earn a degree and be debt-free. “This program can change lives for
everyone involved,” he adds. “Learning really is a lifelong pursuit.”