Restaurant chains are increasingly using tuition benefits to attract hourly workers. Providing these perks helps employers with retention and increases company loyalty, experts say. Since Starbucks launched its tuition benefit to team members in 2014, other fast-food restaurants have quickly followed with their own programs. Here are 10 fast-food chains that offer some form of tuition assistance to their hourly employees.
The Seattle-based coffee chain offers full tuition for Arizona State University's online program, giving its hourly employees an opportunity to earn a bachelor's degree. Under Starbucks' partnership with ASU, the company reimburses its employees' tuition costs after the end of each semester. To qualify, Starbucks hourly employees must work an average of 20 hours a week, and they're eligible from the first day of employment. The company says more than 10,000 employees are currently participating in the program.
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Following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, this fast-food giant announced plans to increase funding for its tuition program Archways to Opportunity by $150 million over five years. The revamped program also eases eligibility requirements. "This investment provides almost 400,000 U.S. restaurant employees with accessibility to the program, as we also lowered eligibility requirements from nine months to 90 days of employment and dropped weekly shift minimums from 20 hours to 15 hours," says Andrea Abate, a McDonald's Corp. spokesperson. The company is also bumping the benefit from $700 a year in tuition assistance to $2,500 annually for its crew members.
Taco Bell revamped its program in March 2018, providing access to tuition discounts for more than 200,000 team members through Guild Education, a company that manages higher education programs. "All Taco Bell corporate and franchise employees will have access to Guild's academic and financial aid coaches and discounts to Guild's education partners – a network of 80 online non-profit universities and learning providers, offering bachelor's and master's degrees, programs such as high school completion and English-as-a-second-language and a wide selection of certificates," according to the company's March press release. In addition to these discounts, team members at participating franchises can receive up to $5,250 annually in tuition assistance.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
The chain known for its Mission-style burritos reimburses employees' tuition up to the IRS limit of $5,250. Employees can reimburse classes from accredited two- or four-year institutions or from a technology or vocational school. Salaried employees and hourly managers at Chipotle are eligible right away, but hourly crew members must wait at least a year. The burrito chain also offers up to 38 college credits through on-the-job training – reducing the number of credits needed toward a bachelor's degree.
Pizza Hut offers Life Unboxed EDU, a tuition reimbursement program, to its hourly employees. The benefit is extended to all Pizza Hut employees and their immediate family members, but employees must work at least 60 days to qualify. Through Life Unboxed, the pizza chain provides tuition discounts for several online programs through Excelsior College. Under the program, team members can receive 50 percent off undergraduate tuition and 15 percent off graduate programs.
KFC offers the REACH Educational Grant Program to hourly team members with at least six months of service. The program provides college tuition assistance in the form of a grant – money that doesn't need to be repaid. Award amounts range from $2,000 to $2,500 for nonmanagerial restaurant workers. The funds can be used toward a degree from a two- or four-year college.
Chick-fil-A offers more than 120,000 team members access to tuition discounts of up to 30 percent at around 100 participating college and universities. For Chick-fil-A hourly employees who attend Pennsylvania State University—World Campus, for example, there's a tuition discount of 5 percent. The greatest tuition discount – 30 percent – is available for team members who enroll in an online degree program at California Baptist University.
White Castle, which owns around 400 restaurants, offers a 10 percent tuition discount to its employees who enroll in a degree offered through Indiana Wesleyan University—National & Global; the institution offers classes online and through 15 on-site education centers in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. Full- and part-time employees who work for the hamburger chain can receive discounts for associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs at IWU. But there are a few programs excluded from the discount, including the nurse practitioner program and other programs in the health sciences.
The pizza chain, founded in Toledo, Ohio, began offering educational perks to its full- and part-time members in 2017. Team members can receive up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursement per year if they pursue an online degree at Bellevue University. To qualify, employees need to work at Marco's Pizza for at least 30 days.
This mid-Atlantic chain, known for selling fast food at its convenience stores, offers tuition assistance. The family-owned chain, which has more than 570 store locations, offers hourly employees up to $1,500 a year in tuition reimbursement. The benefit can be used toward an associate, bachelor's or graduate degree. To be eligible, employees need to work around 16 hours a week on average and be actively employed 90 days before the start of the current term, according to a company publicist.