Las Vegas Sun

October 15, 2019

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Guest column:

We must support the next generation of leaders and secure our economic future

As the chairman and CEO of Nevada’s largest employer and the former governor of the Silver State, we share a deep sense of responsibility to shared economic prosperity and the future we want to create for our children. And nothing is more important to expanding opportunity and supporting a thriving and prosperous economic future than education.

But with higher education becoming increasingly unaffordable, and with total student loan debt breaking records and burying graduates under a lifetime of repayment, more must be done to remove barriers to education and put the future of our workers, communities and economy first. The problem is only getting worse, and it’s clear a grassroots effort is needed to address this growing crisis.

As a large company with a presence throughout the United States, MGM Resorts has an obligation to do what we can to promote growth and opportunity — not just within our company, but across the country and throughout communities in which we operate. We have a responsibility to grow and improve not just our bottom line but the careers of our employees and the places we call home.

That is why we are proud to see hundreds of MGM employees begin college classes free of charge this fall as part of the inaugural semester of the MGM College Opportunity Program. Created through a landmark partnership with the Nevada System of Higher Education, the College Opportunity Program provides the more than 70,000 MGM employees throughout the United States with the opportunity for a college education, entirely free of charge. It is the first time a Fortune 500 company has partnered in this manner with a system of education.

Under the program, employees nationwide can earn associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees or certificates from participating NSHE-affiliated institutions. That includes UNLV, UNR, Nevada State College, Great Basin College, Western Nevada College, the College of Southern Nevada and Truckee Meadows Community College.

This is a major benefit paid by MGM for MGM employees. As the 2019-20 school year begins, 268 MGM employees are already enrolled, and we look forward to seeing many more in the semesters to come. We hope to see this change the lives of our employees, many of whom will be the first in their families to attend college.

From entry-level workers looking to break into a managerial role, to generalist associates needing specialized training, we want to provide a ladder of opportunity to everyone. With economic and financial barriers removed, these individuals are free to seek a quality education and acquire the skills needed to advance their careers and unleash their potential. It is truly a win-win for everyone.

This isn’t just generosity. It is about laying the foundation for the future of our industry, our economy and our country. America must continue to be the land of opportunity and a place where no one is held back from achieving great things. Education is the key to securing that future.

Studies show the importance of higher education to economic growth and opportunity. Yet, for too many, higher education is simply out of reach. The lack of affordable college simply stagnates an already troubling opportunity and income gap and wreaks havoc on our country’s ability to lay the foundation for a vibrant and sustainable economic future.

By investing in our employees and providing a free college education, we are laying down a marker for other companies as well. We are in this together — and it’s up to all of us to help ensure the success of not only our companies, but the workers who make our shared success possible and the communities that we call home. Increasing access to education is truly an example of a rising tide lifting all boats.

From a business perspective, providing free college helps attract and retain top talent and educates our existing employees with the skills needed to be the future leaders of our company. From a jobs and community perspective, it helps individuals advance their careers, expands economic prosperity and creates a new generation of highly skilled workers ready to lead our country through the 21st century. These types of programs are in everyone’s best interests.

Providing workers with the skills needed for today’s evolving job market is not only the right thing to do — it’s imperative when it comes to driving success and bettering communities. We are determined to do right by both.

Jim Murren has been chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International since 2008. Brian Sandoval is the former governor of Nevada, serving from 2011-2019. He is the president of global gaming development for MGM Resorts.