Disney Internships & Programs has announced that it will suspend the College Program until further notice at Walt Disney World. In this post, we’ll share details of the announcement and offer some commentary about what this means for the future of the DCP at Walt Disney World.
Following that, Disney Internships & Programs announced that programs scheduled to begin in early June would also be cancelled and those participants would be refunded for their program fees. This effectively cancelled the Fall Advantage Disney College Program, among other things. However, it did not yet impact the main/regular Fall Disney College Program. Now, we have confirmation that this is also cancelled…
Here’s the official statement about the indefinite cancellation of Walt Disney World’s College Program from Disney Internships & Programs:
“As you may have heard, Walt Disney World Resort is in the process of welcoming guests back to our parks and resorts in the coming weeks as part of a phased and deliberate approach with the well-being and safety of guests and Cast Members at the forefront of our planning. We continue to act on the guidance of government and health agencies and make decisions based on their input. With that, we wanted to share an update about our Disney College Program.
We are still in the early phase of the reopening process. Many of the buildings with the Disney housing complex have remained closed and we have not yet determined when we will reopen them. With that in mind, we have made the difficult decision to continue to suspend our Disney College Program until further notice. We regretfully need to advise you that our offer of employment to you is withdrawn. Please be assured that we will refund your program fee.
We understand this is no the news you were hoping to hear and we want to assure you this decision was not made lightly. We are committed to our Disney Programs and plan to resume in the future, when the time is right. Knowing that some of you may still want to experience our Disney Programs later, we are amending our eligibility requirements, so that those who have recently graduated will be able to re-apply.
If you would be interested in a future program, please let us know by completing the information on the link provided and we will keep you updated on a future opportunity.
We greatly appreciate your passion for Disney and interest in the Disney College Program, and we look forward to the opportunity to welcome back our College Program participants in the future!
We hope you and your family stay safe.
Thank you, Disney Internships and Programs”
This shouldn’t be too surprising given that many colleges are going online-only for the fall semester, keeping their dorms and other student housing complexes closed. This is in light of what we now know about the ease of transmission in close quarters with prolonged exposure, which basics makes that type of housing a petri dish.
For its part, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending a number of safety measures for colleges, which include the complete closure of shared spaces like residence halls, kitchens, game rooms, gyms, and lounges if possible as these are all “highest risk” settings.
Disney College Program housing is pretty much the same deal. Even reducing capacity of the complexes significantly would still only move them to the “moderate risk” category, and that’s probably charitable in light of the reputation these complexes have for ‘festivities.’
Given that College Program participants would then have prolonged contact with other Cast Members while on the job, resuming the CP would be just begging for an employee outbreak. (While safety measures are effective at reducing spread, they don’t stop it entirely–especially with sustained and regular indoor interactions between Cast Members.) It’s a tough decision, but the responsible one by Walt Disney World.
From Walt Disney World’s perspective, this probably couldn’t have come at a worse time. Construction is wrapping up on the colossal new East Campus development, which is being built in the Flamingo Crossings area to the west of Walt Disney World property and had an estimate cost of $100 million. The first College Program participants were slated to move-in back in May–here’s an aerial look of progress as of a few months ago.
This is phase one in a project that’s projected to cost over $600 million in total, with thousands of rooms, community centers, pools, and other amenities. Most notably, it would introduce the Disney Education Center, offering DCP participants the opportunity to engage in “uniquely Disney” learning experiences and earn up to nine credit hours in college coursework. Most of the costs of this project are backloaded, so it’ll be interesting to see whether work continues on the remaining phases. (We drive past here regularly, and it appears work remains ongoing on subsequent phases.)
Nevertheless, we’re inclined to believe Walt Disney World suspending the College Program “until further notice” will almost certainly last for at least the next couple of years in light of the current circumstances. Basically, the College Program won’t even start to gear back up until an effective vaccine has been widely distributed.
Even then, local unions are likely to push back against a resumption of the Disney College Program, which has long been controversial for supplying a below-market and non-union form of disposable/renewable labor. With Walt Disney World and Central Florida as a whole having no shortage of available workers the next few years, the College Program will be met with much more resistance.
Personally, we hope the Disney College Program does resume at some point–albeit in a scaled back form. While there are a number of valid criticisms about the College Program, it has also been an excellent gateway into the company for those who are passionate about Disney and its founder’s ideals.
Many College Program participants go on to become lifelong Walt Disney World Cast Members who are true assets to the parks and resorts. Even those who don’t are often among the most enthusiastic employees at Walt Disney World–those who view it as more than just another job. It’d be nice if this serves as something of a reset for the College Program, stripping it of what makes it controversial and getting the program back to its roots.
Regardless, this is undoubtedly sad news for the many students who have been waiting with bated breath about the future status of their College Programs. There is so much that’s going on all around that’s truly unfortunate and heartbreaking–those who are impacted by the suspension of Walt Disney World’s programs are in our thoughts, and have our sympathies.
What do you think of the College Program being suspended until further notice? Are you disappointed that you or your students won’t have the opportunity to participate in the College Program in the near future? Is it the smart move in light of public health and safety? Think it’s appropriate for Walt Disney World to not resume the College Program for the sake of its full time Cast Members, or is that too harsh? Any other thoughts on the CP? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!