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The famous MGM lion as seen on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo: Alexander Zapata/The Nevada Independent)

Workers at MGM Resorts International — the state’s largest private employer — will soon be able to pursue a college degree for free.

The Nevada Board of Regents voted unanimously on Friday to approve the MGM College Opportunity Program, which will allow employees of the casino company to be reimbursed for the cost of taking courses in online degree programs provided through the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE). In turn, NSHE is discounting tuition by 10-20 percent for participants, depending on the institution.

MGM CEO Jim Murren told the regents that the company has offered tuition and loan payment assistance in the past, but that this program was more “audacious” because it would make college free. He said numerous employees have written messages to him in recent weeks calling the opportunity a “blessing” and saying it was the tipping point in their decision to start or continue a degree program.

MGM plans to set requirements for the minimum length of service an employee must have with the company before being eligible. Applicants must be accepted into a degree program, rather than taking one-off classes, and exhaust other financial aid options before the MGM reimbursement kicks in.

Regent Allison Stephens clarified with administrators that exhausting financial aid options doesn’t mean students will be required to take out all loans and work-study offers presented to them as part of a financial aid package before MGM starts paying.

The program is expected to launch in the fall of 2019.  

It is similar to the Starbucks College Achievement Plan program, started in 2014, in which Starbucks employees can get online degrees from Arizona State University.

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