Employees of Comcast Corp. can now tap tuition scholarships toward bachelor's and master's degrees offered by Jones International University, the distance learning brainchild of cable pioneer Glenn R. Jones.

JIU, which powers its distance education programs via Internet-based communications technologies, was awarded accreditation in 1996. Presently, JIU's school of business offers a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Arts in Business Communication, and Bachelor's degrees in Business Administration and Business Communication, as well as business-related certificate programs. JIU also offers a Master of Education.

Under JIU's accelerated distance learning model, classes start every month and run a span of eight weeks. Generally, students take one or two classes at a time.

Qualified students will be granted tuition scholarships of about 20 percent. That could translate into $4,000 to $9,000 in scholarship funds over the life of a degree program, according to JIU President Dr. David Leasure.

About 29,000 Comcast employees have already taken courses from Jones/NCTI, a JIU affiliate that provides broadband and professional training and accredited education programs. Jones inked a deal to acquire NCTI in November 2005.

The newly-available scholarships will provide a path for Comcast employees that are seeking job-specific training, or looking to transition to a master's degree program, added Tom Brooksher, president of Jones/NCTI.

The Comcast partnership is in the wake of another scholarship offer, under which the 82,000 cable workers who have completed a course from Jones/NCTI are also eligible for tuition scholarships from JIU.

Comcast, the first cable operator to sign a direct scholarship agreement with JIU, is promoting the scholarship to employees via a micro-site accessible via the company's intranet. It's expected that the first Comcast students will begin walking JIU's virtual campus and starting up classes or degree programs from the distance-ed university as early as next month or by January 2007.

"At Comcast, we're very interested in promoting the professional development of our employees," said Martha Soehren, SVP and chief learning officer of Comcast University, in a statement. "We recognize that our employees have many options for continuing their higher education. Our new relationship with Jones International will likely provide some Comcasters with college credits for courses they've previously completed with Jones. This relationship also will offer new opportunities for those Comcast employees who opt to pursue degrees through Jones International."

Comcast employees who opt for and then qualify for the program will be assigned to a JIU counselor, who will stay with the student throughout the program and help to determine that the classes and/or degree fit his or her needs.

"We want good, motivated students," Leasure said.

JIU declined to provide specific enrollment figures, but company officials noted that the JIU student population has grown at the rate of 30 to 40 percent year-over-year.