McDonald’s triples education benefit investment

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McDonald’s is supersizing its tuition assistance and widening the number of eligible employees for its “Archways to Opportunity” education program.

The fast food giant announced Thursday an investment of $150 million over five years that will give nearly 400,000 U.S. restaurant employees access to the program, which helps workers earn high school and college degrees, improve English skills and learn specialized workforce skills through a partnership with educational content company Cengage.

The company also lowered employee eligibility requirements for the program: It’s now available to employees working 15 hours or more a week after 90 days of employment. Originally, the program was open to workers with shifts of 20 hours or more a week after nine months of employment.

The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said the tuition boost comes as a result of the tax reform bill, which lowered corporate rates from 35% to 21% and prompted a number of companies to enhance benefits for their workers. The investment is also seen as a way to recruit and retain talent, says David Fairhurst, McDonald’s chief people officer.

“Since its inception, Archways to Opportunity was meant to match the ambition and drive of restaurant crew with the means and network to help them find success on their own terms,” says Fairhurst. “By tripling tuition assistance, adding education benefits for family members and lowering eligibility requirements to the equivalent of a summer job, we are sending a signal that if you come work at your local McDonald’s, we’ll invest in your future.”

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Meanwhile, workers will receive $2,500 a year for education costs, up from $700, while eligible managers will receive $3,000 a year, up from $1,050, according to McDonald’s.

McDonald’s also will extend some education benefits to restaurant employees’ family members.

The “Archways to Opportunity” education program, which began in 2015, is available to both company-owned and franchise restaurant workers but paid for by McDonald’s corporate, according to the company.

Eligible employees can enroll in an 18-credit Cengage course, which costs $1,295 per student and offers four elective courses; those classes lead to entry-level workforce tracks, such as restaurant and safety, retail and customer service, and child development. The company says eligible restaurant employees will have access to career exploration resources later this year.

Employees can apply the funding to costs related to community college, a four-year university or trade school, the company says. There is no lifetime cap on tuition assistance, which is effective as of May 1 and retroactive to Jan. 1.

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