Companies lure hourly workers with college tuition perks

NEW YORK (AP) – More than a dozen companies have launched free or almost-free college programs for their front-line workers over the last decade.

They see the programs as a way to recruit and retain workers in a tight labor market or train them for management positions. For hourly employees, the programs remove the financial barriers of obtaining a degree.

Thousands of people are now taking advantage of the benefits and the chance to earn a free degree can be life-changing. But some critics question whether the programs are papering over deeper problems, like pay so low that workers can’t afford college without them or hours so erratic that it’s too hard to go to school in person.