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Employer Update: Five Questions for Bonny Simi, Founder of JetBlue Scholars

1) What is the JetBlue Scholars program?Bonny Simi

JetBlue Scholars is an innovative program that offers our crewmembers an opportunity to earn a fully accredited college degree with the company covering most of the cost. In our annual crewmember engagement surveys, we saw a reoccurring theme – crewmembers asking for help completing their degrees. JetBlue Scholars is our answer to this request; it addresses the needs of our full-time crewmembers who have some college credits under their belt by offering college advisement and resources.

We provide alternative college credit options and go well beyond standard tuition reimbursement. JetBlue Scholars provides a clearer path to degree completion and converts aviation and military training and other professional certificates into college credit, helping to reduce the time to complete a bachelor’s degree.

 

2) How does the program work?

Traditional paths to higher education can be overwhelming. In line with our mission of inspiring humanity, JetBlue is bringing humanity into the process by easing complexity for crewmembers. JetBlue opens periodically for enrollment.

  • Crewmembers are assigned a Success Coach and share their education background, including transcripts from previous coursework, copies of licenses or certifications held, records from past military, police or fire training and any other experiences or documentation that demonstrates past college level learning.
  • The assigned Success Coach then helps crewmembers map a pathway to a bachelor’s degree in aviation, liberal studies, information technology or business from Thomas Edison State University.
  • Coursework is completed through three innovative learning platforms – Sophia.org, StraighterLine.com and Study.com, as well as our own internally developed courses using open source materials mapping to competency based exams (such as CLEP).
  • Once crewmembers earn the maximum transferrable credits, they complete final online courses with JetBlue’s launch partner Thomas Edison State University.
  • Once 120 credits are reached, the bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State University is conferred

 

3) What inspired you to launch this program?

The inspiration is both personal and professional for me. Professionally as I looked at options for our crewmembers, I noticed how complicated the process could be. Our crewmembers often work full-time and have other obligations. They need flexibility at a reasonable price point. Also, we wanted to make a greater impact than traditional tuition reimbursement. Many of our crewmembers have started and stopped college often due to their schedules and responsibilities. As many already hold professional accreditations, we thought it would be great to combine their previous credits with their work experience and give them credit for what they already know. Our partners at Thomas Edison State University agreed.

Personally I’ve seen the alternative credit model work first-hand. My husband completed his degree through alternative credits. He started college and didn’t finish. He made a promise to eventually complete his degree after working as a firefighter for 25 years. He had years of on-the-job training and EMT credentials. By unbundling college, he only paid for what he needed and his work experience counted toward his degree. All he needed was 3 more classes, which he finished at Thomas Edison State University in 6 months.

 

4) Who is your target audience?

Upon announcing plans for JetBlue Scholars, in less than one week, 2,500 crewmembers (approximately 14% of JetBlue’s workforce) responded to indicate their interest. Our target is crewmembers that have some college credits already completed and need some help navigating the higher education landscape. As most of the course work is online via videos, lectures and other content, JetBlue Scholars is perfect for self-motivated, independent learners.

 

5) How do you think this program will help JetBlue achieve its long-term business goals?

JetBlue Scholars served many purposes. It is being used as a retention tool, helping with internal advancement and has already positively impacted crewmember engagement.

For more information, visit jetbluescholars.com or How JetBlue is helping crewmembers soar above college debt.