10 Hotel Companies Launch Innovative Pilot Program to Offer Employees No-Cost Associate and Low-Cost Bachelor’s Degrees

WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 28, 2018The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation (AHLEF), the foundation arm of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, today announced a pilot program to offer streamlined degree programs to hotel industry employees in partnership with Pearson’s AcceleratED Pathways program. Through this groundbreaking initiative, ten hotel companies will engage employees across 1,500 hotel properties, allowing them to pursue higher education pathways at no cost to the employee.

The announcement underscores the hospitality industry’s commitment to enriching its workforce and ensuring a strong and prosperous future for the industry. This program, the first of its kind within the hospitality sector, builds upon a legacy of opening opportunities for industry employees, such as the apprenticeship program and Empowering Youth Initiative, and shows AHLA and AHLEF’s continued commitment to providing employees with the pathways, training and resources they need to achieve their career goals.

“The hospitality business is about taking care of people–both our guests and our workforce, said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). “We could not do what we do without a strong, talented workforce. Our industry exemplifies the American Dream, fostering development, upward mobility, and exciting lifelong careers. Today’s announcement builds on a legacy of resources and training the hotel industry provides to our employees, and we are excited to give working adults in the hotel industry a more affordable and flexible education, and helping employers to attract and retain talent in the process. This is a win-win.”

Hotels are unique for offering jobs and career paths that do not require a college degree but do require skills, with many global C-Suite executives and nearly half of all general managers starting their careers in entry-level positions as dishwashers, bellmen, or front desk agents. This new program, however, offers more diverse and personalized educational paths that enable skill development, including a high school GED, a cost-free Associate degree, or a low-cost Bachelor’s degree. By eliminating the high upfront costs of pursuing higher education, employees are now able to take advantage of tuition assistance programs — at no extra cost to the employer.

Employees who pursue and complete post-secondary education pathways by taking advantage of employer tuition assistance benefits tend to earn more money over the span of their careers, are more qualified for promotion, are effective at driving customer satisfaction, and stay at companies longer. AHLA and Pearson’s new partnership enables greater participation in existing tuition assistance benefit programs, and also offers employees personalized guidance, resources and additional support services to help students reach their goals on their educational journeys.

Participating companies run the gamut from large global brands to management companies and independent properties, and include Hersha Hospitality Management, New Castle Hotels & Resorts, The Osthoff Resort, OTO Development, The Nines Hotel, Pivot Hotels & Resorts and Davidson Hotel and Resorts, Pyramid Hotel Group, Red Roof Inns, TradeWinds Island Resorts, and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts.

“Pearson’s AcceleratED Pathways program helps companies manage tuition and education benefit programs to better the lives of employees and improve talent recruitment and retention. AHLA’s leadership and that of its member companies is a game changer for thousands of busy working adults in the hotel industry who can now take control of their education while they juggle jobs and family obligations,” said Kevin Capitani, President of Pearson North America.

AcceleratED Pathways is a growing component of Pearson’s business, helping companies manage tuition and education benefit programs to better the lives of employees while providing companies with measurable benefits. Studies of similar programs in other industries have shown advantages for employers, as well as employees – from lower turnover rates and decreased training costs to higher employee loyalty and increased levels of customer satisfaction. Companies in the pilot are also setting an example of corporate social responsibility and improving the lives of, while also strategically investing in, their workforce.

Pearson will help match an employee with an online degree program at an accredited community college or university to complete an Associate or Bachelor’s degree. In many cases, employees can use existing college credits to jumpstart their education, and apprentices currently enrolled in AHLA’s apprenticeship program can also earn college credit. This allows many of the busy working adults in the hotel industry to stay in control of their education while they juggle jobs and family obligations. Students also receive support services that significantly reduce the administrative burden, making it more likely that they will complete their degree.

Employees are expected to begin participating in this program as early as March 2018.

To read more about Pearson’s AcceleratED Pathways, please click here.

Participating Hotel Companies: What They’re Saying

“HHM is honored to be a part of AHLA’s Employee Cost Free College Program, and we are committed to supporting those who share our passion and enthusiasm for this special industry. So many of our associates have hearts that serve every day. This program enables us to serve and support them by providing an opportunity for personal growth and development. The hotel industry is becoming increasingly more complex with changes in guest expectations, technology, financial and other demands, consolidation and branding, all requiring future leaders to prepare themselves for that future. Providing an expedited pathway to earning a degree while working can only benefit us all.” –Joann Weber, Vice President of People Support, Hersha Hospitality Management

“I’m proud of New Castle’s record of developing motivated associates and nurturing their careers from the heart of the house to the GM’s office. We want to be more than a paycheck to our associates, and programs like these, spearheaded by AHLA, help us make that a reality.” –Gerry Chase, president and COO, New Castle Hotels & Resorts

“Many of us, who are now in a position to give a leg up to the next generation of hoteliers, started in entry level positions. I believe it is our responsibility to help high-potential associates develop careers in hospitality and create a future for themselves and their families. I see it as a responsibility of good citizenship, but it also helps us meet our obligation to our guests and investors by ensuring we have the best people possible attending to their experience and protecting their investments. I look forward to seeing more careers flourish and appreciate AHLA’s leadership in this important area.” –Marian Barbieri, vice president of human resources, New Castle Hotels & Resorts

“We are so honored to have The Osthoff Resort be a part of the AHLA and AHLEF pilot program and look to this innovative program to provide a true competitive advantage for our business: the roadmap to a cost free college degree for our Osthoff associates. We consider this innovative partnership a win-win-win: a win for our associates who understand the value of this opportunity, a win for the employer to attract and retain talented associates, and a win for the hospitality industry in attracting people who may have chosen another path or another career. Thank you to AHLA and AHLEF for developing and delivering such an impactful, strategic tool with both short-term and long-term benefits for our individual businesses, as well as for the entire hospitality industry.” –Lola Roeh, General Manager, The Osthoff Resort

“Pyramid is committed to supporting the education goals of our team members, and we are excited to do so by making AHLA’s cost-free college program available. This is an investment that works both ways—team members get to learn and expand their opportunities, and we retain great associates and future leaders. “ –Richard M. Kelleher, Chairman & CEO, Pyramid Hotel Group

“Helping our employees grow through education is our responsibility as a leader in the industry. We look forward to enhancing the lives of hard-working individuals through this new partnership with AHLA.” –Andrew Alexander, President, Red Roof

“TradeWinds Island Resorts prides itself on offering an employment experience that is second to none. Even still, we are always looking for more ways to help our incredible Employee Partners learn and grow. Having been hired as a Bellman before starting my career in Human Resources, I know firsthand the benefits of what the hospitality industry has to offer. The AcceleratED Pathways program through AHLA & Pearson will provide opportunities for so many talented individuals, and is a great option for employers who care about their people. TradeWinds is thrilled to be one of the first to support this program, and offer Cost Free College to our Employee Partners.” –Glenn J. Willocks, Vice President of Human Resources, TradeWinds Island Resorts

“Wyndham Hotel Group is focused on developing a sustained workforce that is as diverse as our customers and the communities where we do business. That’s why we’re pleased to partner with AHLEF and Pearson AcceleratED to offer our associates the opportunity to earn college degrees debt-free.” –Becky Walnoha, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Wyndham Managed Hotels

“We know that education makes a significant impact and that opening the doors for some will help unlock the potential for many. With this AHLA and AHLEF pilot program, Wyndham Hotel Group is empowering our team members to invest in their futures, which in turn contributes to our company’s growth and the evolution of the hospitality industry.” –Mark Kukulski, President, Managed Hotels, Wyndham Hotel Group

“OTO Development builds and manages excellent properties, but people are our greatest asset. We view our partnership with AHLA and Pearson as an investment in our employees’ skills and competencies. Because as our portfolio grows – it’s increased nearly 50 percent since 2015 – so too does our need for internal talent that’s trained, ready and able to take on new responsibilities.” Corry Oakes, President & CEO, OTO Development

“It’s exciting to partner with two great organizations, AHLA and Pearson, to offer career pathways to our associates. Through programs like this one, we are able to put into action our Guiding Principle of Fulfillment and help our associates reach their maximum potential.” –Sonia Santana, Vice President of People Services, OTO Development

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About the American Hotel & Lodging Association
Serving the hospitality industry for more than a century, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) is the sole national association representing all segments of the 8 million jobs the U.S. lodging industry supports, including hotel owners, REITs, chains, franchisees, management companies, independent properties, bed and breakfasts, state hotel associations, and industry suppliers.

About the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation
AHLEF is the industry’s philanthropic organization, dedicated to helping people build careers that improve their lives and strengthen the lodging industry. Founded in 1953, AHLEF is a subsidiary of the American Hotel & Lodging Association and provides resources for hospitality-related education, career development, research and public awareness of the industry.

About Pearson
Pearson is the world's learning company, with expertise in educational courseware and assessment, and a range of teaching and learning services powered by technology. Our mission is to help people make progress through access to better learning. We believe that learning opens up opportunities, creating fulfilling careers and better lives. For more, visit