Times are tough across the country right now. Those who’ve been furloughed or become unemployed since the beginning of the pandemic face serious hardships that will likely require further government intervention and assistance, but even those lucky enough to hold onto their jobs are struggling to make ends meet. Saving for higher education can be a significant part of that burden, especially at a time when exorbitant tuition prices don’t account for the lack of a traditional college campus experience amid the pandemic. 

That’s why it’s a pretty big deal that Hormel Foods recently announced their plan to pay for community college education for the children of their employees. Dubbed the Inspired Pathways program, the children of all current Hormel employees in the US will have the opportunity to receive free tuition so they can attend a community college located in a city where the company operates.

Differing from Hormel’s existing four-year merit-based college scholarship program, Inspired Pathways is a truly universal effort.

“The Inspired Pathways program is designed to be inclusive of all dependent children of Hormel Foods team members and is not based on achievement of a certain test score or GPA,” Hormel said in a press release. “The only academic requirements are that the student graduates from high school and meets the community college's entry requirements.”

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The Inspired Pathways program will involve partnerships between Hormel and these community colleges. In addition to tuition payments, Hormel will create mentorship committees that can help students with their applications and connect them with internship opportunities and other career assistance.

Though community colleges often get a bad rap, they can be an essential pathway to something greater, especially for first-generation college students. The ability to earn an associate degree at no cost before potentially moving onto a four-year program could be truly life-changing, and their flexible approach to learning can be invaluable as well.

Enrollment in the program begins later in 2020, with the first class of students hitting campus in time for the 2021-22 academic year. Here’s hoping that other companies make similar efforts to do right by their employees in the midst of these difficult times. 

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