Hormel is paying for its employees’ kids to attend community college

Exterior of a Hormel Foods factory
Exterior of a Hormel Foods factory
Photo: Joshua Hultquist (Getty Images)

While attending college is still regarded as a prerequisite for many jobs, college has never been more expensive, and aside from during the Great Depression, the economy has never been worse. So, that makes it even more meaningful that Hormel Foods has announced it will be paying for the community college education of the dependent children of literally all of its employees.

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The offer of college tuition assistance and/or reimbursement isn’t an anomaly within the food industry, and Hormel already offers a four-year college scholarship program through the “National Merit Scholarship Corporation.” Its new deal, though, is an interesting one. For starters, the program, which Hormel is calling “Inspired Pathways,” is “designed to be inclusive of all dependent children of Hormel Foods team members and is not based on achievement of a certain test score or GPA.” This helps to make it more accessible for first-generation college students, who are more likely to be minorities, and who are more likely to have lower SAT scores.

The offer of paying for community college is also a better fit for the COVID era. Many four-year colleges and universities are still charging full price even as they transition to entirely online learning, and as a result students are increasingly turning to community colleges instead. One of the selling points of attending a brick-and-mortar four-year university is the experience of being on campus; paying huge sums of money for an experience you’re not really going to receive is something many students aren’t willing to do. Plus, community colleges, which are often maligned, offer a valuable entry point into higher education and can help to funnel students toward four-year degrees (and beyond) if that’s what they’re aiming for.

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Hormel’s program will begin in 2021 and partners with community colleges in cities where the company already operates. And, per Hormel, it will be “creating community mentorship committees to provide resources to the students, including assistance with applications.” While the effectiveness of the program remains to be seen, as it’s framed it seems like a comprehensive effort to help elevate the families of its employees, which is welcome news in an era defined by corruption and corporate malfeasance.

Jacob Dean is a food and travel writer and psychologist based in New York. He likes beer, less traveled airports, and is allergic to grasshoppers (the insect, not the mixed drink.)

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DISCUSSION

As someone who lives in the town where Hormel is headquartered, I can’t emphasize enough what a big deal this is. While they have a large sales & management presence scattered around the USA, the bulk of their laborforce are people working at their plants. A large percentage of that workforce are immigrants & refugees, as has always been the case in the industry.

Many of these employees will tell you that the work is hard but they appreciate the opportunity that coming to the USA gives their family & specifically will mention education. Now those families can go to community colleges & in 2 years or less become mechanics, carpenters, welders, LPNS, CNAs & more. Their kids can also get their AA & transfer to a 4 year university if that is their goal & not fall so far behind in debt. It’s an exciting time in our town (and others across the USA) for sure!