college students and mickey mouse wearing a graduation gown at disneyland
Story Access

Educating California's Workforce

Alisia Ruble

Companies like Amazon, Disney and Stater Bros. partner with the CSU to upskill employees and provide an affordable pathway to earning a bachelor's degree.

college students and mickey mouse wearing a graduation gown at disneyland

Photo courtesy of the Disneyland Resort​


When companies want to invest in their employees' education, they turn to the CSU because it's the best value in higher education. At only $5,742 per academic year, CSU tuition is among the lowest in the country and has not risen in more than a decade in keeping with the university's commitment to making college affordable for all.

The CSU works with industry partners to help employees advance their careers and foster a more educated workforce for California's economy. Read about a few of these partnerships.

Amazon Education Partners

Amazon's Career Choice program provides education and training opportunities that include full college tuition, industry certifications and foundational skills, such as English language, high school diplomas​ and GEDs. Full- and part-time Amazon employees who have worked for at least 90 days are eligible.

The e-commerce company has chosen several CSU campuses to be education partners and serve regions in which the company operates: Channel Islands, Fresno, Pomona, San Diego, San Josè and Stanislaus.

“[Earning a degree] may be the difference between employees being in a warehouse position versus a higher-paying managerial position, so it could have tremendous benefits—life changing in some ways," says Ron Rogers, Ph.D., San Josè State interim vice provost for academic innovation and online initiatives​. “Career Choice provides them mobility within their careers, which will ultimately contribute to their social mobility."

The program also provides employees with the opportunity to explore other career options at Amazon like communications and marketing, software development and more. Students receive a quality education from the university as well as strong academic and career advising.​photo of mischelle martinez Stanislaus State student and Amazon employee Mischelle Martin​ez. Photo credit: Stanislaus State

As a Career Choice education partner, San Diego State University Global Campus, for example, provides access to a range​​ of SDSU degree-completion programs offered fully online or hybrid with some in-person components, giving students flexibility in how, when ​and where they learn.

“We were very excited when Amazon reached out to us to be their first Career Choice partner in the San Diego region," Casey Rothenberger, executive director of academic and professional programs for SDSU Global Campus, says in a press release. “This partnership allows SDSU and Amazon to provide increased access to a bachelor's degree for the thousands of Amazon employees in our region."​

For Mischelle Martinez, a Stanislaus State business major who transferred from Modesto Junior College ​last spring, learning that Career Choice is available to her was a pleasant surprise.

"I was transferring in and found out that I qualified for this program, so I decided to definitely take advantage of it," says Martinez, who works 30 hours a week as an Amazon packer while taking a full load of classes. “It is a big help because it covers all of my educational costs." 

A Patterson resident and mother of two small children, Martinez says she chose to attend Stan State for its business programs and proximity to Patterson, which allows her to save money by living at home and commuting. She is considering a human resources track and plans to graduate with a bachelor's degree in spring 2023. 

'Cal State Disneyland'

Last summer, Cal State Fullerton joined ​Disney Aspire, The Walt Disney Company's education investment and career development program that offers 100 percent tuition paid upfront for hourly employees.​

Dozens of CSUF programs will be available starting spring 2023 to more than 29,500 hourly employees eligible to participate in Disney Aspire in California, more than 3,400 of whom are already enrolled at the university.

“It's always been a little joke that CSUF is called 'Cal State Disneyland' because so many Disney cast members also attend or graduated from Cal State Fullerton, so this is a natural fit," says Elva Rubalcava, CSUF associate vice president of government and community relations. “Disney also recognizes that CSUF has an incredible impact on Orange County's economy. In fact, nearly 80 percent of our more than 310,000 alumni have stayed within a 50-mile radius of campus."

In addition to covering tuition, Disney will also reimburse employees for applicable books and fees. Employees will have access to a variety of in-person and online courses at CSUF, located about seven miles from the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.

CSUF joins Disney Aspire as the program's first four-year brick-and-mortar university, as all previously established educational opportunities are through online universities and programs. This will allow local employees the chance to engage in an on-campus college student experience.

Serving Working Adults

Cal State San Bernardino has established the Stater Bros. Market​ completion program to help employees advance their careers. Through this partnership, the grocery chain can​ provide a significant educational opportunity to its employees to earn a Bachelor of Arts in administration through the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration (JHBC).

“Stater Bros. has provided startup funding for the program and is promoting the program among its own employees," JHBC Dean Tomás Gómez-Arias, Ph.D., says. “As part of our agreement with Stater Bros., their employees get a 15 percent tuition discount and Stater Bros. provides an additional 15 percent tuition reimbursement."

The program resembles the curriculum of CSUSB's regular Bachelor of Arts in Administration program but is offered fully online in a more flexible modality with eight-week courses. It is designed for students who have taken their lower division courses at community colleges or other institutions and can complete the program in 60 units.

“Being fully online and asynchronous, it fits with people's schedules," Dr. Gómez-Arias says. “The short course format allows students to progress towards their degree in predictable chunks that accommodate​ changes in people's life demands."

The partnership will also have a major impact in providing access to a high-quality educational program and opportunities to increase the college attainment rates of Inland Empire residents. The inland region has a population of 4.5 million residents, but less than 20 percent of the residents have a bachelor's degree.

Learn more about these programs by visiting the Amazon Career Choice, Disney Aspire​ and CSUSB Jack H. Brown College​ websites.

The value of a California State University​ degree is unmatched. We offer an affordable, high-quality education taught by world-class faculty members along with strong career advising and hands-on experiences that ensure graduates are job-ready and highly desired by employers. The university works with industry professionals to ensure our more than 4,100 degree programs are relevant to California's workforce needs. Earning a CSU degree has the potential to change the trajectory of students' lives, as well as the lives of their family members, by opening doors to opportunities for upward mobility.

Learn about applying to the CSU.