Microsoft announced as new ASU-Education at Work partner for student jobs, tuition assistance
When Carderay Stafford started college at Arizona State University, he was also working too many hours at a job he didn’t like. His job was affecting his school performance, and he wasn’t learning the skills he needed to succeed.
“It was interfering with the reason I came to school, to learn,” said Stafford, a computer science major heading into his sophomore year.
“I knew I couldn’t stay in my current situation, with a job that would never allow me to reach my full potential, so I took a leap of faith to see where it would take me,” he said.
He applied for a job through Education at Work, a nonprofit collaborating with ASU to offer students quality part-time jobs to promote career readiness while avoiding student debt. Microsoft recently joined the collaboration as the newest employer partner.
Launched in 2016, the collaboration between Education at Work and ASU has resulted in $8.5 million in wages and tuition assistance to ASU students. Participating local employers have included Discover Financial Services, Cable One and others.
The program has the capacity to employ 200 ASU students to do work for Education at Work on behalf of Microsoft, resulting in an estimated financial impact of $2.5 million annually in wages and assistance. The new jobs will allow students to help Microsoft customers troubleshoot technical support issues and solve other problems. Students earn $11 an hour for 16 to 20 hours per week with shifts scheduled around classes. Students also have the opportunity to earn up to $5,250 per year in tax-free tuition assistance. The job site is just northwest of ASU’s Tempe campus in downtown Tempe.
Stafford thought the job and tuition assistance available seemed too good to be true. But, he accepted the job, and since then Stafford said that he became more comfortable with himself and more comfortable with stepping out of his comfort zone.
“I’ve noticed that even with college presentations and things, I’m more comfortable going up there and meeting more and more people every day,” he said.
Stafford said that the working culture was also fun and motivating: Everyone encourages each other to do well in school and improve themselves.
Striking the balance of a student-focused work culture, resume-worthy career building opportunities, financial assistance and education is the focus of the partnership. But part of Education at Work’s mission is also to stem student loan debt. According to Forbes, student loan debt in the United States totals $1.56 trillion. The average student loan debt is $28,650; in Arizona the average is $23,967. The tuition assistance, which is based on GPA and attendance, is a key component to helping students stave off debt while being able to focus on their studies.
At a ribbon-cutting event on June 6, Stafford and another current ASU student employed through the Education at Work partnership with Microsoft, Daymee Hissu, spoke about their experiences and how the opportunity has impacted them.
Hissu is a first-generation college student studying psychology heading into her sophomore year. She became involved with Education at Work because her friends recommended she apply. She describes that she’s had to learn to tackle new experiences in a customer-facing role and has gained self-confidence and networking opportunities through her job.
“It’s a great way to build connections with important people. It opens up many different opportunities for me,” Hissu said.
Hissu said she is certain that her job experience will help her in her future endeavors — she said she just wants to make a difference in the world — and that she’s grown as a professional.
“I’ve learned that failure is what makes us better, but support is what makes us stronger,” Hissu said.
The innovative partnership is a win for students, but it’s also a win for employers, said Scott Blevins, senior vice president of university partnerships and student success at Education at Work. Students have a good job, tuition assistance and an introduction to work cultures and metrics, as well as exposure to professional opportunities beyond ASU. And employers have access to smart, tech-savvy college students and a future talent pipeline.
“Our students are the heart and soul of our business. At Education at Work, with the support of our client and university partners, we invest in the future of our students. This is truly bringing together leaders at the forefront of innovation — Arizona State University and Microsoft, who both continue to push boundaries in the future of technology and education, and both are committed to students’ success,” he said.
ASU Vice President of Outreach Edmundo Hidalgo said that ASU is excited to open more pathways to great careers for Sun Devils at sought-after employers, because the partnership offers so much more than a temporary job.
“This is more than just a part-time job; it’s an environment that will support your studies, which contributes to higher GPAs among Education at Work students with an added bonus of tuition assistance,” Hidalgo said.
“It’s a holistic experience that helps students develop professionally with the ultimate goal of student employees going into full-time positions with Microsoft or another leading company.”
By the end of 2020 Education at Work is projected to pay $9 million in wages and tuition assistance to the ASU campus community, employing 650 students. Applications are open now for positions working with Microsoft and other employers.
This story was written with Sun Devil Storyteller Austin Davis, EOSS Marketing.