News broke today that KFC will become the first fast food chain in the U.K. to pay its full-time staff to study for a degree while working full-time. This was treated as a weird news piece, with the Daily News insinuating that KFC overstepped its boundaries by trying to become a Cluck U. It was also treated with some derision—take a look at the Huffington Post's comments section on the story. "Hmmm, they can't spell 'finger lickin good' so I guess they should go to school for a meaningful and respectful qualification, to complement their crappy pointless job," writes Craigzz.
However, this story shouldn't be tossed aside like your self-worth after eating two Double-Down sandwiches. The issue, and the solutions offered by having KFC, yes, KFC, pay for school, are more important than you think. What is being done with the partnership between Colonel Sanders and De Montfort University will eventually become prevalent over here for economic reasons.
It's no secret that the cost of going to a university has spiraled out of control in recent years—tuition at private colleges rose 5% for the 2011-12 school year, while public schools' rose 8% during that same time, according to the College Board. More and more parents are falling into that gap where they don't qualify for financial aid, but also can't really afford to drop $250,000 for little Danny's Classical Studies degree. That puts kids in the uneviable position of taking on debt to pay for school, at rates that cripple them financially for years—or decades. Our president didn't even finish paying off his loans until 2004.
This leaves room for a niche where students who don't qualify for scholarships or financial aid, or don't want to have massive debt, would have part of their schooling paid for by a company making an investment. So far, that's really only been filled by the U.S. military, which obviously isn't for everyone (although we do thank those who it is for). It has somewhat been filled by trade schools, although many times there's no guarantee they'll hire you after school. This crazy KFC idea—and another like it also in the U.K. implemented by McDonald's—actually guarantees employment, helps pay for school, and leads to an educated workforce, with the only downside being, you know, that you have to work at KFC. As tuition continues to rise in the U.S., look for this program to be done in many, many more colleges here. The current path is not sustainable. Much like corporations now subsidize college athletics (see: KFC's own basketball arena at Louisville), they will eventually begin subsidizing more degree programs.
What do you guys think—would you work for the Colonel in exchange for a college degree? Or is this all a bad idea?