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Amid labor crunch, WilmU partners with employers

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Wilmington University has long catered to working adults, but is seeing more attention from employers now. | PHOTO COURTESY OF WILMINGTON UNIVERSITY

WILMINGTON – With employers still looking to fill thousands of open positions while facing increasing wage trends and new demand to work remotely, many are turning to employer-sponsored education, and Wilmington University is reaping the benefits.

Founded in 1968 as a traditional college that transitioned into serving primarily working adults, the private college of today has a student body where about 87% work full- or part-time, and 76% are over age 25. For many years, WilmU has worked with local employers to offer tuition-reimbursed programs to their employees, but the pandemic and the subsequent labor force shortage has led to even more interest from partner companies.

Adding to the university’s reach has been its multi-year partnership with Guild Education, a third-party company that connects large employers with vetted online degree programs. WilmU, which offers 130 online degree programs, is one of more than 100 approved by Guild nationwide, but the only one in Delaware.

While WilmU was already serving local mainstays like ChristianaCare, Amazon and CSC, the Guild partnership has helped the college add major corporations like the Walt Disney Company, Discover and Walmart too. 

“Even the best companies are struggling to acquire and retain high-quality employees,” said Eileen Donnelly, WilmU’s recently retired vice president of enrollment management, in a statement. “At the same time, mid-career employees are realizing the need to retrain and learn new skills. We believe that organizations that invest in tuition assistance for their workforce are really making themselves a more attractive opportunity and a smarter company.”

Partner companies can offer access to undergraduate, graduate or certificate courses through Wilmington University, or they can work to develop a customized academic course for a particular need. In return for the access to new students, WilmU offers in-state tuition rates for all online programs, regardless of where the student lives. Classes begin every eight weeks.

Natalie DiSabatino | DBT PHOTO BY LIUGI CIUFFETELLI

At Discover Financial Services in New Castle, the College Commitment program allows eligible employees to earn a bachelor’s degree as a fully funded benefit. For Natalie DiSabatino, a community affairs specialist, the program assisted her in making her longtime educational goal a reality.

“I always knew I wanted to earn my master’s, and Discover’s partnership with Wilmington University made it possible,” DiSabatino, who earned a Master of Science in Management with a concentration in marketing last October 2021, said in a statement. “I liked having the in-person educational experience with expert instructors, but I also enjoyed the convenience of completing coursework online, over the weekends or at night when I had the availability.”

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