Partnership Lowers Student Debt, Builds Workforce Readiness

By Anita Verdugo Tarango

Director, Outreach, Arizona State University

Mahmudur Choundhury is a recent graduate of Arizona State University (ASU) whose work with a global online payment processing company while still in school helped open the door to his professional career. And that work during college was made possible through an innovative partnership between ASU and Education at Work (EAW).

Choundhury works in customer care for the payment processing company, where he got his start through the ASU-EAW partnership. Through EAW, students from ASU are gaining professional skills and lowering their student debt. And for Choundhury, the work with EAW gave him the opportunity to stand out among his peers.

Mahmudur Choundhury
Mahmudur Choundhury

He worked part time in a customer service role through EAW, developing affinity for the brand, establishing a clear understanding of its customers, and building the necessary soft skills to succeed post-graduation.

Putting soft skills to work

Choundhury’s work through EAW allowed him to showcase his ability to implement coaching and feedback immediately and to work well with customers and co-workers. This experience not only garnered Choundhury $1,000 to help cover tuition costs, but it also set him up for a successful transition into a professional position.

His success story is just one from the 400 ASU students who have benefited from employment at EAW in the past year.

Arizona State University is an institution that prides itself on a charter that says that we “measure ourselves not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include and how they succeed.” Much of our work is rooted in this statement, and we are committed to student success. Education at Work, a Strada Education NetworkSM company, is a nonprofit organization that partners with companies that hire high-achieving students in an effort to provide work experience while reducing student debt.

So when EAW surfaced as a potential partner, it was quickly evident that this organization shared values similar to ASU’s, with a student-centered work environment and all of the benefits that students gain by working at EAW.

EAW has been an excellent way for our students to reduce their debt for school — which contributes to their overall success. To date, EAW has awarded over $3 million in hourly wages and tuition assistance to ASU students.

As Education at Work student-employees, ASU students have gained employable skills, a competitive wage, and tuition assistance. There are few jobs that can offer all these benefits, so it was not surprising that we had over 700 applicants within the first few months!

Connecting education to employment

Students are doing engaging work that is surpassing the expectations of the company’s staff. One of the long-term outcomes that we hope to achieve is to have ASU students gain full-time employment with the companies to which they are introduced through their work at EAW. We look forward to more long-term success stories like Choundhury’s in the future.

At ASU, we pride ourselves in being the No. 1 school for innovation. We encourage our students, faculty and staff to be innovative in finding solutions to local and global issues.

Our partnership with EAW is another way we are being innovative and making an impact for our students, so that they can graduate with more employable skills and less debt.