Disney has partnered with the University of Central Florida to offer 100 percent free tuition for Cast Members and eligible employees.
The free ride is part of the Disney Aspire program, a $150 million education investment that the entertainment giant launched last August.
According to Disney, about 40 percent of their 85,000 full-time and part-time hourly employees with 90 days of service have signed up for the program. Disney added that more than 6,000 employees are actively taking classes.
“Since its launch, Disney Aspire has enabled thousands of Cast Members to dream bigger and reach higher,” said George Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort and UCF graduate. “Adding UCF to this prestigious network of schools will provide our Cast Members with even more options to create the futures they imagine.”
In addition to covering 100 percent of tuition, the program reimburses application fees, required books and course materials. Students also receive individual coaching from Guild Education, who Disney partnered with to administer the program.
More than 53,000 Florida-based Disney employees will be eligible to attend UFC when the university opens courses in the fall of 2019. There are plans to expand the program outside of Florida in early 2020.
While tuition is covered in full, Disney employees still need to meet in-state residency requirements and be accepted into the school. Those who get in will be able to choose from 34 undergraduate and master’s degree programs, including 10 fully online classes.
“We could not be more excited to be working with Disney to make a high-quality college degree even more accessible,” UCF Interim President Thad Seymour Jr. said. “Many of our students already are Disney employees who will immediately benefit, and this program has the potential to change lives in our community for generations.”
Anthony Payne, a custodial Cast Member who works the night shift at Epcot, was one of the first people to enroll in the educational program.
“I was inspired to join the Disney Aspire program by my wife and children. They have always been my biggest motivation,” Payne, a father of three, shared. “I’ve wanted to go back to school for about 15 years now, and I haven’t heard of too many companies offering something as generous as this. I really feel like Disney is investing in our futures, and they’re helping us to grow and follow our dreams.”
The Navy vet used his work breaks to study and take online tests. With the guidance of Disney Aspire coaches, Payne quickly completed his Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning certificate and is now looking for a multi-year HVAC apprenticeship program.
“I’m more confident in my abilities than I ever was before,” Payne said. “I can’t wait to use my skills, and advance as far as I can here.”
Craig Plummer, an eCommerce sales and service agent, pursued his MBA degree through the program. The U.S. Military vet originally put it off because of the complicated application process. But thanks to the help of a coach, Plummer was able to go after his dream.
“They’re showing confidence in us,” Plummer explained, “There’s no obligation to take a degree in the job you’re already in – you can choose where you want to go with your education. So, for the younger people who are just starting off and don’t know what they want to do when they are higher up in the Company, this gives them the opportunity to work towards a degree.”
Chris began his writing as a hobby while attending Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. Today he and his wife live in the Orlando area with their three children and dog.