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Study Finds Investing in Employee Higher Education Results in Cost Savings for Major Financial Services Company

INDIANAPOLIS—Discover Financial Services, a leading banking and payment services company with 100 percent U.S.-based customer service, reaps $1.44 in savings for every dollar spent on tuition assistance for employees, according to a study released today. The study, conducted by the global professional services company Accenture with support from Lumina Foundation, adds to growing evidence that tuition assistance programs help build employee skills, improve corporate bottom lines, and increase employees’ involvement in the community.

Discover employees who participated in the tuition assistance program received wage increases that, on average, were 40 percent higher than those of non-participating employees. Participating employees also were 21 percent more likely to be promoted. Within Discover, they were more mobile, more likely to show up for work, and more likely to stay with the company.

“Discover’s exceptional results add to the growing evidence that employers who invest in their workers benefit financially while also helping the country meet its future talent demands,” said Lumina Foundation President and CEO Jamie Merisotis. “This is a win-win for companies and our larger society.”

According to a 2015 report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, U.S. employers spend about $177 billion on formal training and talent development each year, and roughly 10 percent of this amount goes toward tuition assistance programs such as Discover’s. Even though these investments are significant, most employers do not assess the value that these benefit programs generate for their businesses. The Accenture study examined differences in promotion, transfer, retention, and absenteeism rates between participating and non-participating employees from 2010 through 2013. The study controlled for factors such as job function to ensure fair comparisons across both groups.

Adriana Cavazos is among Discover employees who has benefited from the company’s tuition reimbursement program. No one in Cavazos’ family had pursued a college degree, but her parents consistently impressed upon her the importance of higher education to her future success. After high school, Cavazos landed a job at Discover as an entry-level call center representative. However, her drive to further her education persisted. Participating in Discover’s tuition reimbursement plan, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University (ASU), taking classes in the morning and working full-time at Discover in the afternoons and evenings. Upon graduating, Cavazos was promoted to a position that required a college degree. Many other Discover employees have been retained and promoted after taking advantage of this employee benefit.

The findings of this study came as little surprise to Jason Frantz, director of Discover’s Financial Intelligence Unit and the leader of Cavazos’ team. Through Cavazos’ experiences, Frantz has seen how pivotal the program is at enabling career opportunities. During Cavazos’ five years at Discover, Frantz and other team leaders recognized her growing knowledge and skills, promoting her five times. Meanwhile, Cavazos is working on a master’s degree at ASU, which she plans to finish this year.

“The sky is the limit for Adriana,” Frantz said. “Discover has a culture that rewards people who work hard to be great leaders by giving them opportunities to advance not only in title, but through meaningful career development.”

Cavazos’ experience aligns with Lumina Foundation research showing that postsecondary education leads to higher employment rates, greater lifetime earnings, and improved career opportunities. Additionally, citizens who earn degrees, certificates, and other quality postsecondary credentials vote and volunteer at higher rates and demonstrate higher levels of appreciation for other cultures, enhancing the communities in which they live and work. Discover’s tuition program helps the company foster the talent it needs to continue to deliver industry-leading customer service, award-winning credit cards, advanced payments solutions, and consumer banking products.

“We are focused on providing exceptional value to our customers, and we achieve this largely by investing in growing the skills and abilities of our employees,” said Jon Kaplan, vice president of training and development at Discover. “This study helped prove what we already knew: Investing in our employees helps our customers, helps the community, and provides significant business value.”

In response to these positive results, Discover leadership dropped the requirement that participants complete one year of full-time employment prior to entering into the program. Starting in 2017, new employees will be eligible to apply to the program on day-one of their employment with Discover. The company also plans to increase internal communications about TRP so that more employees are aware of the tuition reimbursement program and the opportunities it provides.

The Discover study is part of a series of analyses by Accenture that includes exploring the financial effects of tuition assistance programs at Cigna, a global health insurance company, and Advocate Health Care, a regional hospital system. These studies and others are available at www.luminafoundation.org/employer-engagement.


About Lumina Foundation: Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. We envision a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. Our goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.

About Discover: Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a direct banking and payment services company with one of the most recognized brands in U.S. financial services. Since its inception in 1986, the company has become one of the largest card issuers in the United States. The company issues the Discover card, America's cash rewards pioneer, and offers private student loans, personal loans, home equity loans, checking and savings accounts and certificates of deposit through its direct banking business. It operates the Discover Network, with millions of merchant and cash access locations; PULSE, one of the nation's leading ATM/debit networks; and Diners Club International, a global payments network with acceptance in more than 185 countries and territories. For more information, visit www.discover.com/company.

About Accenture: Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions—underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network—Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With more than 384,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us at www.accenture.com.

Media contact:

Lucia Anderson Weathers
(317) 951-5316
landerson@luminafoundation.org