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Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. Read more top stories from 2019.
The partnership between Uber and Arizona State University to provide a pathway to a fully funded college degree is now available to eligible drivers and their families nationwide.
The ASU and Uber Education Partnership, which launched in eight cities, including Phoenix, in November 2018, offers the opportunity to earn an undergraduate degree through ASU Online or nondegree courses through ASU’s Continuing and Professional Education program.
Under the pilot, Uber estimated that 10,000 drivers would be eligible for the tuition-coverage program. Now, it’s available to 100% of the company’s qualified drivers in the United States, and, although similar to ASU’s tuition-reimbursement program with Starbucks, the Uber partnership is broader, allowing drivers to pass tuition coverage to spouses, domestic partners, children, siblings, parents, legal guardians and dependents.
The education program is open to drivers who have completed at least 3,000 rides and achieved platinum or diamond status on Uber Pro, the rewards system that was unveiled at the same time as the tuition program.
Video by Uber
When the program debuted, Emily Kuckelman of Denver was working two jobs.
“Driving was my second job when I was a second-grade teacher,” said Kuckelman, who has been with Uber for almost three years.
“I was in this place where I had decided to stop teaching and I was looking for my next career, but I didn’t want to go into terrible student debt to go back to school,” she said.
“It was perfect timing.”
Kuckelman had 2,000 rides to her credit and needed to get to 3,000 to register for her first courses in the spring.
“It was a mad dash because I was working full time,” she said.
She’s pursuing a Bachelor of Science in graphic information technology and hopes to have a career in user-experience design. Now, she’s balancing driving with studying.
“I set a strict schedule for myself,” she said. “I figure out when driving is the most profitable in Denver so I have those hours pretty set. When I’m not driving, I’m working on school. It’s all about time management.
“When I was teaching, I had to have a second job anyway so I’m used to having a packed schedule.”
For Shannon Rozas of Mesa, Arizona, the tuition coverage meant she could pursue a dream that was long deferred. She has been married to her husband, Darryn Rozas — who drives for Uber — for 26 years. She was in college when they met.
“We got married and had kids and my schooling went on the back burner all these years,” said Shannon Rozas, who is majoring in liberal studies with a hope to work in communications.
“I have always wanted to finish my degree, and this is a wonderful opportunity to do so.”
Rozas works full time as an executive assistant and has a 13-year-old son at home, so there’s a lot of juggling.
“I have to stay on top of my scholastic calendar and fit in reading, studying, completing assignments and tests in between my personal obligations,” she said.
“Staying organized and keeping a calendar is imperative.”
The partnership offers more than 80 ASU Online undergraduate degree programs and Continuing & Professional Education certificates in entrepreneurship and English language learning.
Uber has stressed the flexibility in both its work model and the degree program. And it has worked for Kuckelman, who enjoys her job driving.
“School days might be overwhelming if I have a big project, and it’s nice to say, ‘I’ll drive tomorrow’ and I can take a day off,” she said.
“There’s a mobile app so you can have your school stuff on your phone, which is very friendly for people on the move.
“I’ll be waiting at the airport for someone and I can check something for school.”
Learn more at uber.asu.edu.
Top photo: Emily Kuckelman of Denver is pursuing a bachelor's degree in graphic information technology and hopes to have a career in user-experience design. Photo by Uber