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As student loan debt climbs to record-high levels, Chipotle is the latest company to announce a generous education benefits package for its employees.
The fast-casual Mexican restaurant says it will begin offering all eligible employees, including crew members, the opportunity to pursue college, and to do so debt-free.
There are some restrictions, though. The expansion of the Chipotle Cultivate Program does not cover all courses of study. Rather, it covers tuition costs for 75 different types of business and technology degrees through a partnership with Guild Education, an education benefits company.
The tuition perks will be extended to employees who have worked for Chipotle for at least 120 days. Employees will be able to pursue degrees at nonprofit, accredited universities including the University of Arizona, Bellevue University, Brandman University, Southern New Hampshire Univeristy and Wilmington University.
Chipotle’s newest tuition benefit builds on a program that has provided employees with $20 million in tuition assistance over the past two years, according to the company. The existing program allows employees to be reimbursed for tuition up to $5,250 a year at a school of their choice.
“Chipotle realizes that financial barriers can be one of the biggest obstacles that impede our employees from achieving their fullest potential,” said Marissa Andrada, Chief People Officer at Chipotle, in a press release. “We are proud to launch this opportunity for debt-free degrees by providing free tuition to help our employees excel in all areas of their lives, both in and out of Chipotle.”
Last year, Walmart announced a similar partnership with Guild Education that gave employees an opportunity to earn a debt-free associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in supply chain management. The program costs employees $1 a day.
Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor, told CNBC Make It that there’s been an increase in companies offering education benefits.
“It’s consistent with the state of the labor market now,” he said. “These new benefits show that employers are feeling the pressure of a tight labor market and are expanding benefits and experimenting with new ways to attract workers.”
Other companies that partner with Guild to offer tuition benefits include The Walt Disney Company, Lowe’s, Taco Bell and Discover.
Kudos to companies for investing in their employees’ futures!