Chipotle Mexican Grill is serving up a new employee benefit to its workers: enhanced educational initiatives.

Through a new partnership with Guild Education, Chipotle employees can pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees, take college courses or attend graduate school at little to no cost, earn a GED, or study English as a second language.

Guild Education offers a variety of online classes, programs and more than 30 degrees from top-ranked universities including Colorado State University’s Global Campus, Bellevue University, Brandman University and Western Governors University.

Some courses are “open access” and others require prospective students to meet the admission criteria of the university. Both live and recorded classes are offered. For live sessions, students can be logged into a virtual classroom, see all their classmates and participate in collaborative video chats.

[Image credit: Bloomberg]
[Image credit: Bloomberg]

“Our goal is to help employers offer higher education as a strategic corporate benefit by turning their corporate tuition reimbursement policies from what has traditionally been a cost center into an employee benefit with a positive ROI for the company,” says Guild Education CEO and co-founder Rachel Carlson.

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Employees have access of up to $5,250 annually in previously available tuition reimbursement from Chipotle, and an additional $5,815 in federal grants for qualified applicants in undergraduate programs. Through these programs and the discounted tuition offered to Chipotle employees by Guild Education, many participants can complete their degree for as little as $250 per year.

Guild negotiates tuition discounts with participating schools for employees in the program.

“Generally we are paid by the learning providers on a per-student basis at no additional cost to the employer, but some employers elect to pay us additional amounts to provide their employees with custom support,” Carlson says.

“We provide all the coaching and advising to the employee base about finding the right program and succeeding through that program,” she continues. “Guild coaches work with employee/students on a weekly basis helping them to ensure they are meeting their academic goals while at the same time that they are managing their work and family responsibilities.”

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The importance of the coaching component cannot be underestimated, Carlson says. Industry data confirms that an employee enrolled in a program in partnership with their employer and a university has double the likelihood of remaining in the classroom and on the job than if he registered independently, she says.

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The programs also help Chipotle employees gain credit for their past college coursework and up to 44 transfer credit hours for on-the-job training in crew, kitchen manager, service manager and apprentice manager positions. Carlson notes that some elite universities give college credits for activities such as tennis, yoga or extra-curricular classes so it is logical to honor the hard work and training Chipotle employees have done on the job.

In addition to its tuition reimbursement program, which was expanded to include hourly employees in 2015, Chipotle offers other competitive benefits such as paid sick leave and vacation for all employees, including hourly workers; health, dental and vision insurance; a 401(k) matching program; employee stock purchase program and the opportunity for twice-annual merit increases and an annual bonus.

“Attracting and retaining teams of top performers is one of the key drivers of our business, and we are always looking for ways to enhance the benefits we offer to help us do that,” says Monty Moran, co-CEO at Chipotle. “We’ve seen a lot of success and participation with our existing tuition reimbursement program, and through this new partnership with Guild Education, we can offer our employees even more assistance and opportunities to pursue their education.”

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