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Mirage guest room attendant Perla Padilla, defending champion in the Housekeeping Olympics bed making event, cleans a room on Monday, Oct. 8. (Jeff Scheid-Nevada Independent)

The Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) says that of 670 MGM Resorts International employees who applied for the company’s College Opportunity Program, 268 have successfully enrolled and are starting free college programs online this fall. 

Of the 268 in the program, 169 are Nevada residents who will have education and career development opportunities they otherwise might not have had because of rigorous financial and time commitments of a college program.

The MGM College Opportunity Program (COP) was established by the NSHE Board of Regents in September of last year. The program allows any MGM employee (both in Nevada and out-of-state) to apply for online-only degree or certificate programs offered by six NSHE institutions, free of charge for all credit hours. 

Through the COP, MGM covers the base costs of the degree or certificate program after all eligible financial aid has been considered. Accepted applicants were expected to receive academic and financial counseling before starting classes in August.

“The program [will] emphasize degree completion and helping employees focus on taking the right classes to achieve their individual goals,” NSHE said in a recent press release

According to the agenda for a regents meeting scheduled later this week, college program options were presented to applicants based on their areas of interest, rather than basing the applicant’s decision on which NSHE institutions provide the program. The application also included an interactive decision tree, helping employees choose what kind of program to pursue (bachelor’s, associate’s, certificate, etc.) and what area of interest to study. 

On Thursday, regents will discuss how they facilitated the COP applications, and will provide updated enrollment data. Of the 670 applicants to the COP program, 40 percent were accepted based on the COP’s eligibility requirements and application. 

To be eligible to apply for the COP, employees had to have worked with MGM for at least six months. Some employees were deemed ineligible if they already had a masters or doctorate degree.

Starbucks launched a similar program with Arizona State University in 2014. In a 2018 interview, the Starbucks College Achievement Plan director reported that the program had more than 1,700 graduates by the end of its fifth year. 

MGM is Nevada’s largest private employer with more than 70,000 employees across the United States.

This story was updated at 8:44 a.m. on Sept. 6, 2019 to correct a detail about the Board of Regents meeting and to further specify eligibility requirements for the program.

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