The Disney Aspire Program made an appearance on campus last week, informing students of a chance to have the entertainment giant pay for their schooling and receive a job at the Disneyland Resort.

Aspire is an internal part of Disney that works with a third party educational company, named Guild, to handle enrollment and student coaching while Disney handles tuition costs.

Disney Aspire worker Cheyenne Greenwood helps a student understand about the Disney Aspire program at Fullerton College on Wednesday, Oct. 5

Disney Aspire representative Cheyenne Greenwood helps a student understand about job opportunities at Disneyland during the job fair event at Fullerton College on Wednesday, Oct. 5 Photo credit: Matthew Gonzalez

Disney Aspire is a new program at the college, but not necessarily a new concept. Dean of Technology and Engineering Ken Starkman, largely responsible for securing this program at FC, said there have been many Hornets already working for Disney since its opening, “Disneyland has thousands of employees working just a short distance from Fullerton College. We have had cast members coming to Fullerton College very likely since Disneyland opened in 1955.”

Fullerton College sent out a press release in July that Disney was adding Fullerton College for the first time and Cal State Fullerton to its Aspire program. These are the only local schools to be chosen, but current cast members are open to joining the program as well.

A student named Brianna Landeros gets her job interview by Disney Aspire worker Rachel Higginotham at the Disneyland job fair event at Fullerton College on Wednesday, Oct. 5

Student Brianna Landeros gets her job interview by Disney Aspire employee Rachel Higginotham at the Disneyland job fair event at Fullerton College on Wednesday, Oct. 5 Photo credit: Matthew Gonzalez

“I think it is a great opportunity for people who want to work, attend college, and learn,” said Starkman. “If Disney Aspire is committed for up to $11,000 in education benefits a year to a cast member and if we consider how many Aspire cast members are attending Fullerton College, I figure Disney just made about a $2.5 million commitment if you look at the numbers. To me, that is significant.”

As perfect as this program sounds, it would be naive to ignore where Disney has come up short on the employment side. According to the recent documentary, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales, Abigail Disney (granddaughter to Roy Disney and great niece to Walt Disney), reported one out of every ten cast members had been homeless at some point during their employment and two-thirds of cast members could not afford to eat without food stamps or their premiums on their medical insurance. It is not uncommon for couples working full-time at Disneyland to fall below the poverty level.

With the cost of living on the rise and the job market as competitive as ever, Starkman spoke to taking advantage of programs like Aspire Disney when Fullerton College can offer them, “Many other companies in our college district offer education benefits. College students may not understand that many employers offer education benefits and encourage degree completion,” Starkman said. “We know that student loan debt has topped a trillion dollars, so why is there not more emphasis on earn and learn employment? The idea of work and attending school might sound challenging for some, however, working for an employer that pays education benefits can be beneficial in many ways.”

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