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Uber sending drivers to college

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As driver ire rises ahead of IPO, the company extends more perks—but only to those who drive often

The sign in front of Uber headquarters. Photo by JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock

As SF-based Uber prepares to go public amidst rising discontent from the drivers upon whom it relies, the ride-hailing company will offer new perks to its unofficial workforce, including the chance to cover college tuitions, albeit only at one participating school and only for drivers who put in enough hours.

Under a program called Uber Pro, drivers in certain cities (including SF) can take classes at Arizona State University online sans tuition, or they can transfer the perk to a family member.

The fine print on the combined Uber/Arizona State University site lays out the demands facing potential students, who must keep driving for Uber in order to maintain eligibility:

Driver partners must have completed 3,000 lifetime trips and have Gold, Platinum or Diamond status to be eligible for 100 percent tuition coverage. Tuition coverage provided after scholarships or other grants and is only valid for certain online classes and up to a maximum 135 credits.

Drivers remain eligible for this reward for as long as they maintain Gold, Platinum or Diamond status, and for an additional three month grace period if their Uber Pro status falls. [...] Driver partners are required to pay applicable income taxes on the tuition coverage, as well as the costs of books and computer or technology services.

An Uber spokesperson tells Curbed that drivers also must maintain a 4.85 rating with riders.

The “gold,” “platinum,” and “diamond” designations are a new part of Uber’s driver program, designed to motivate drivers to ride more by offering more perks on points earned, including the chance to keep more fare money and receive discounts on gas and car maintenance.

Uber’s announcement does not make specific mention of driver discontent. In recent months, Uber drivers have voiced concern over lackluster work conditions and pay.

In April, CBS News reported that drivers in eight cities for both Uber and rival Lyft, including drivers in San Francisco, will stop work for 24 hours on May 8, the same day as the company’s anticipated Initial Public Offering, with Atlanta drivers recently signing on for the action.

In March, Uber drivers in LA went on a similar one-day strike in response to Uber cutting their pay.

And in Philadelphia, a union representing gig drivers for companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash demanded a pay raise in the form of an 80/20 split on gross fare receipts with the company.

MarketWatch reports that Uber could raise up to $9 billion from its May 8 stock opening, off of an initial stock price of up to $50 per share.

According to expense management software company Certify, Uber accounted for 73 percent of car-related transactions made by Certify customers in the first quarter of 2019.