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Uber, Arizona State partner to offer free degrees to some drivers

FILE - In this March 15, 2017, file photo, a Uber car drives through LaGuardia Airport in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

PHOENIX — Arizona State University has expanded its program that offers free degrees to employees of a company to the largest ride-sharing app in the country: Uber.

Uber and the university announced Thursday that drivers will be able to pursue higher education through the pilot program by taking classes online.

The program will launch in eight places: Phoenix, Denver, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Orlando, Tampa and New Jersey. The company aims to eventually roll the program out nationwide.

“Flexibility is foundational to our two enterprises,” university President Michael Crow and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in an opinion article for the Arizona Republic.

“We believe there is an opportunity to bring the power of our platforms together to expand access to flexible work and flexible education, and opportunities that come with both.”

Drivers who have completed at least 3,000 rides and have platinum or diamond status on Uber Pro, a rewards system that was unveiled Thursday, are eligible for the pilot program.

They can choose to take classes through an undergraduate program, a program to help them become admissible to the university or nondegree courses.

Drivers can also choose to pass tuition coverage to a family member, such as a spouse, domestic partner, child, sibling, parent, legal guardian or dependent.

“Drivers are working every single day to provide opportunities for themselves and, crucially, also for their families,” Daniel Danker, head of driver product for Uber, said in a statement.

“That is the motivation behind Uber Pro. It’s a way for us to recognize the motivation that our drivers have and the pride they feel in the work they do.”

Drivers also do not have an obligation to continue to drive for Uber once they graduate or complete professional development courses.

The money for the pilot program will come from aid programs, as well as Uber and Arizona State University.

The university already offers free undergraduate degrees through its online program to Starbucks employees with the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.

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