Chipotle ramps up D&I initiatives with free tuition to historically black college

More than 8,000 employees have taken advantage of Chipotle's higher education benefits.
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Chipotle employees can now earn a debt-free degree from one of the oldest historically black colleges in the nation: Paul Quinn College.

The college is the most recent addition to Chipotle’s debt-free degree college program, which launched last year. After 120 days of employment, Chipotle employees — including part-time restaurant workers — are eligible to earn an associate or bachelor's degree in 75 types of business or technology programs, at no cost to the employee.

More than 8,000 employees have already taken advantage of the benefit. Chipotle leaders say they adopted the program to help employees meet their personal and professional goals.

“Financial barriers can be one of the biggest obstacles for not furthering their education,” said Marissa Andrada, chief diversity, inclusion and people officer at Chipotle. “Ensuring we provide inclusive benefits and a support system for our employees will continue to aid in our efforts to…provide employees with the tools to achieve their full potential.”

Fifty-six percent of U.S. employers currently offer a tuition reimbursement benefit or student loan repayment benefit, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. As the cost of college increases and student loan debt has ballooned to $1.6 trillion in the U.S., employers are recognizing the need to provide employees with debt relief and financial wellness benefits.

Chipotle’s debt-free college benefit is provided by Guild Education — a higher education benefits company. Through Guild’s program, Chipotle employees also have the option of attending The University of Arizona, Bellevue University, Brandman University, Southern New Hampshire University and Wilmington University. The company added Paul Quinn College, located in Dallas, to their offerings to provide an option that would appeal to diverse employees.

“Chipotle’s Cultivate Education program continues to thrive, giving employees the opportunity to achieve enhanced economic mobility,” said Rachel Carlson, CEO and Co-Founder of Guild Education. “By expanding the program to include Paul Quinn College, Chipotle is offering employees a more comprehensive, inclusive benefit.”

Employees who want to attend a college, or earn a degree that's not included in the debt-free program are eligible for $5,000 in tuition reimbursement. Chipotle has offered college tuition reimbursement benefits since 2016.

The company reports their education benefits have done wonders for their retainment and advancement rates. Employees who are enrolled in the college benefits are three and a half times more likely to stay with the company, and are seven times more likely to be promoted to a managerial position. Some employees say they wouldn’t be able to earn a degree without this program.

“I had two majors with a number of credits and was debating whether or not to go back and pursue my degree,” said Brice Widger, a Chipotle crew member in New York City, in a previous report. “The accelerated program with Bellevue University combined with Chipotle’s tuition assistance made the decision easy. It is convenient as I am able to take classes in the evening, which I really appreciate.”

Last year, Chipotle introduced a new bonus program where individual restaurants have the opportunity to earn up to a month’s extra pay if they meet quarterly sales goals. In the first quarter of the program, Chipotle paid out $700,000 in bonuses to restaurant workers. Employees also have access to free English-as-a-second-language classes, fitness discounts, financial wellness, mental health and healthcare benefits.

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Employee benefits Diversity and equality Career advancement Student loan debt Employee retention Career advancement Chipotle