Jon Kalpan vp-training and developmentTell us about yourself: My entire career has been devoted to expanding opportunity by providing meaningful, impactful, and engaging learning opportunities to others. I started my career as a high school teacher in Oakland, California, teaching Economics and Government to 12th graders. I spent about ten years in public education, teaching everything from math and science to English literature. I founded and ran a charter school called the Alameda Community Learning Center for several years, but eventually decided the most interesting things in the learning industry were happening in the private sector. I left public education in 1999 and started my corporate life writing development training software manuals in the tech sector. After working in various corporations for several years, I chose Discover because it was a place that allowed me to focus on my mission – to use education as a way to help people lead more rewarding and fulfilling lives.

I live in Lake Bluff, IL with my wonderful wife Shari, my two wacky kids, and our five-year-old runty-looking dog.

What is “The Discover College Commitment”? The Discover College Commitment is a new tuition program that provides all eligible U.S.-based Discover employees the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree online from select accredited public or non-profit private universities at no cost. The benefit covers tuition and required fees, books and supplies needed to complete select online degrees at one of three schools – the University of Florida (via UF Online), Wilmington University and Brandman University. The benefit has no tenure requirement so employees can start participating as soon as they want regardless of how long they have been with the company, including new employees on their first day.

What was the objective for launching this type of program? When we started working on this several years ago, we had four strategic objectives. First and most immediately, we wanted to improve talent acquisition and retention, especially in our  call centers. Second, we wanted to improve a set of transferable skills for participating employees, helping enhance their critical thought, analytical reasoning, problem solving, and quantitative aptitude. Third, we felt that we could structure the curriculum to deliver a set of strategically relevant capabilities, such as cyber security and computer engineering. Finally, we felt that we could enhance our brand in the market for both potential employees and consumers.

How’s it going so far? It’s still early days, but we’ve been extremely gratified by the overwhelming enthusiasm across the company. In the first two-and-a-half months since launch, nearly 10% of the company has scheduled academic counseling sessions with our education counselors. Moreover, almost 500 employees have submitted college applications to one of our degree programs.

While it will take years to realize the long-term benefits of this program, we’re already seeing early positive returns. Visits to our jobs page are up significantly and company-wide attrition is steadily declining. Moreover, Discover received over 185 million media impressions based on 58 news stories that resulted from this program. Word of mouth has been uniformly glowing.It will be years before we will be able to announce our first graduates, and we know that there will be challenges along the way. That said, we couldn’t have hoped for a more positive start and a uniquely innovative way to promoting the professional, personal, and financial success of our employees.

For more information about the Discover College Commitment program, including eligibility requirements, please visit www.mydiscoverbenefits.com/keyword/education-assistance.