- Fast-casual restaurant chain Chipotle is joining the growing list of employers to offer workers a tuition-free college education.
- U.S. employees can pick from among 75 undergraduate degrees in technology and business at institutions including the University of Arizona and Southern New Hampshire University. They are delivered in partnership with Guild Education and offered online or on campus.
- The company's previous education benefit included tuition reimbursement for up to $5,250 a year. The change is being touted as a first for the fast-casual industry.
In its announcement, Chipotle said users of its current education benefits are more likely to stay on and be promoted within the company than those who do not use them. Last year, some 2,600 workers used them, a company spokesperson told Education Dive in an email.
Employees who work at least 15 hours a week can qualify to participate in the new tuition benefit after 120 days with the company.
Chipotle is not alone in its approach to postsecondary education for its workers. In June, JetBlue added master's degrees to its tuition benefit. And Walmart recently expanded its $1-a-day college degree program to include technology topics like cybersecurity and computer science.
Some companies are tailoring the degrees they offer through their education benefits to fields or specialties in which their employees work or could be promoted into. Walmart's program also includes business and supply chain management degrees, for instance, and JetBlue is advertising programs in areas such as information technology, aviation management and business, in addition to the liberal arts.
Walmart has taken it a step further, working with Guild to infuse the curriculum with case studies, projects and other instructional pieces that reflect its business.
While employers tend to use tuition benefits to retain workers, particularly in positions with high turnover, some see it as a recruiting tool. Southwest Airlines, acknowledging a looming shortage of qualified pilots, is teaming up with a handful of colleges to offer additional training for students to help them meet the airline's hiring qualifications. Its move follows a similar one from Delta Airlines in 2018.
Colleges are responding to the growing activity around corporate partnerships by dedicating more resources to them. Arizona State and National University System both have in the last year rolled out ventures to tap into that market. And the interest is partly credited for significant enrollment growth at SNHU, Inside Higher Ed reported earlier this month.