Dollywood, Silver Dollar City Owners To Pay College Tuition For All Employees

Amy Stewart

Visiting Dollywood, or any of about two dozen themed attractions across the country, will now help finance higher education for the park’s employees.

Herschend Enterprises, which owns the attractions, announced this month it will cover 100 percent of the tuition, fees, and books for any of its 11,000 employees wanting to continue their education.

Herschend has launched a program called “Grow U.” to finance the campaign. Both full-time and part-time employees are eligible to participate.

“Herschend’s Grow U. is not only a significant and transformational investment in our employees’ growth, but also our love culture in action,” Andrew Wexler, CEO of Herschend Enterprises, said in a statement. “Herschend is rooted in love — it’s evident at every Herschend property, every day, in the way we treat and support each other, how we create memories worth repeating for guests, and most importantly, how we care for our employees.”

Herschend Properties

Herschend’s properties are located all across the country and serve more than 14 million guests annually. Among the properties are:

  • Family Entertainment: Dollywood Parks & Resorts, Silver Dollar City, Adventure Aquarium, Newport Aquarium, Kentucky Kingdom, Wild Adventures
  • Herschend Live: Harlem Globetrotters
  • Herschend Entertainment Studios: Splash & Bubbles, Chuggington
  • Herschend Adventure Holdings: Pink Adventure Tours

How The Program Works

Herschend has partnered with Guild Education on the project and is working with more than 30 institutions to offer 100 percent, fully-funded diplomas, degrees, and certificate programs in fields including business administration and leadership, culinary, finance, technology, and marketing.

In addition, employees can receive partial funding of up to $5,250 annually for 150 other programs, including hospitality, engineering, human resources, and art design.

“Whether it’s to pursue a new dream or advance their career with us, we care about our employees’ personal and professional growth, because we believe that their futures should be grown with love, not loans,” said Wexler. “Our team members’ success is our success, and that’s why we’re thrilled to make this benefit available to all, regardless of their role in the company and without the burden of debt.”

Dollywood Officials React

At Dollywood, the company said the move is an effort to show employees they are appreciated.

“When our hosts feel appreciated and are given opportunities like this, they feel cared for and they can pass that feeling on to their guests,” Wes Ramey, a spokesman for Dollywood Co, told the Washington Post. “[Dolly’s] very supportive of the employees learning and continuing to grow themselves.”

The company said helping employees both personally and professionally is built into Dollywood’s DNA.

“One of the Dollywood Foundation’s key tenets is to learn more,” Dollywood Company President Eugene Naughton told WATE. “This program is created with that very tenet in mind. We want our hosts to develop themselves through advanced learning to fulfill the foundation’s other tenets: care more, dream more, and be more. When our hosts strive to grow themselves, it makes our business and our community a truly better place.”

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