PhotoWorking your way through college was once a time-honored tradition, but with today’s sky-high tuition, who can do that?

The concept may be making a comeback as more companies begin offering college tuition benefits for their employees. Chipotle Mexican Grill is the latest company to introduce what it calls “debt-free degrees” for eligible employees.

Chipotle says it is expanding its current Chipotle Cultivate Education benefits program that has provided company employees with more than $20 million in tuition assistance over the last two years.

Under the expansion, Chipotle says it will cover 100 percent of tuition costs for 75 different business and technology degrees and provide the assistance upfront, not through reimbursement.

Four months on the job

To qualify, an employee must have been on the job for at least 120 days. After that, they are eligible to seek degrees from non-profit and accredited universities such as the University of Arizona, Bellevue University, Brandman University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Wilmington University.

The program is being administered through Guild Education, an education benefits company.

"This expansion of Chipotle's Cultivate Education benefits program to cover 100 percent tuition costs upfront for degrees in business and technology represents the company's commitment to upskilling its workforce and helping employees achieve their professional goals," said Rachel Carlson, Guild Education CEO & co-founder. 

"We are thrilled to partner with Chipotle as they continue to lead the way in the fast-casual industry for enhancing the employee experience with best-in-class benefits."

Starbucks’ tuition reimbursement

A growing number of companies whose workforces include a  large number of young, entry-level, and often minimum wage workers have taken the step of providing financial assistance for education.

In 2015, Starbucks introduced a tuition reimbursement program for its employees who wanted to complete their college education. The program provides 100 percent tuition coverage for the last two years of school in Arizona State University’s online curriculum. The program is open to full-time and part-time employees who work at least 20 hours a week.

For students who have already run up some student loan debt, there is also a growing number of employers willing to help. As we reported previously, more corporations are making student loan repayment an optional employee benefit.

At the time, 73 percent of major corporations surveyed by Challenger, Gray, & Christmas either offered or planned to offer a student loan repayment package.

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