The ridesharing company is partnering with Guild Education to offer thousands of dollars in tuition discounts to drivers.
The gig economy is here to stay. Currently, freelancers account for nearly 34% of the workforce, and by 2020 it’s estimated that number may grow to 43%. Because of this, companies are looking for ways to recruit and retain talented individuals, or poach them from competitors. Ridesharing giant, Lyft, is hoping its new education initiative will give them a leg-up over companies like Uber and Sidecar, by helping its drivers further their education and save some cash in the process.
Lyft partnered with Guild Education, a female-founded startup that helps companies offer college education and tuition reimbursement to its workforce. Under the new initiative, Lyft drivers would have access to tuition discounts at thousands of instutions in Guild’s network to earn a GED or college degree online. Even better? Drivers could also receive up to $5,920 in federal financial aid while saving from 5% to 20% off their tuition bill.
The company hopes the program will not only help recruit high-quality contractors, but will also ensure the drivers they currently have — 47% of whom do not have a college degree, according to an internal survey — remain loyal to Lyft.
“We know that many Lyft drivers are working to achieve personal or professional goals, which often include continued education and learning,” John Zimmer, Lyft co-founder and president, said in a statement about the new initiative. “We’re happy to offer this resource to help drivers succeed both on and off the platform."
To qualify for tuition assistance, drivers must complete 10 rides in the current or previous quarter before being able to enroll in the program and 10 rides per month to stay in it. Zoe Weintraub, who’s in charge of direct sales and corporate partnerships at Guild, called the requirement a “low bar.”
While Lyft’s education program may help many of its drivers, ridesharing companies have come under fire for not extending further benefits and protections to their workforce. In fact, according to NPR, Lyft has commissioned an audit of the education program “to assess if it exposes the company to new legal claims that workers are employees, not independent contractors.” The verdict according to Lyft’s lawyers? It doesn’t. Though it could save drivers thousands of dollars, the education discount wouldn’t qualify as compensation and would not change a driver’s status from independent contractor to employee.