Offering tuition help to retain employees
Employee perks can be a difference-maker in a competitive labor market, offering companies a hiring advantage. Though the hourly wage may be the first thing that many job seekers notice, there may also be benefits beyond pay such as programs that help employees obtain a college degree. Tuition assistance often means students are reimbursed after completing the semester or a class. Program structure varies by employer, so prospective students should check with human resources for specifics on how tuition assistance works at their organization. Reimbursement may also be capped at a specific dollar amount, something else that varies by employer. Here are 12 fast-food chains that offer some form of tuition assistance to their hourly employees.
Chick-fil-A offers tuition discounts of up to 30% to eligible employees at more than 100 participating colleges, universities and other institutions. Discounts -- and how those are applied -- vary. A special cost per credit hour is offered at some universities, while others offer a discount that is a specific figure and others have a set percentage. The percentage discount is as low as 5% at some schools, whereas the highest tuition discount -- 30% -- is available for employees who enroll in an online degree program at California Baptist University.
Chili's Grill & Bar
Chili's, a fast-casual dining chain with more than 1,200 U.S. locations in 2020, offers the Best You EDU program to help eligible employees earn an associate degree online at no cost through a partnership with publishing giant Pearson Education. While Best You EDU is focused on associate degrees in terms of higher education, the Chili's website states that bachelor's degree assistance is "coming soon."
Chipotle Mexican Grill
The chain known for its Mission-style burritos covers or reimburses employees' tuition up to the IRS limit of $5,250. The burrito chain also offers up to 37 college credits through on-the-job training, reducing the number of credits needed toward a bachelor's degree. Additionally, Chipotle covers 100% of tuition for employees to pursue college opportunities in agricultural science, hospitality and supply chain through a partnership with Guild Education, a company that manages higher education programs.
KFC offers the REACH Educational Grant Program to eligible employees. The program provides college tuition assistance in the form of a grant -- money that doesn't need to be repaid. Award amounts per academic year range from $2,000 to $2,500 for nonmanagerial restaurant workers; managers can receive up to $3,000. The funds can be used toward a degree from a two- or four-year college for undergraduate and graduate study, as well as at vocational and trade schools, per the company website.
The pizza chain, which was founded in Toledo, Ohio, and has more than 1,000 locations, began offering educational perks to its full- and part-time workers in 2017. They can receive up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursement per year if they pursue full time an online degree at Bellevue University. Immediate family members of employees are also elibigle for up to $2,625 in annual tuition assistance, per the company website.
Following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017, the fast-food giant McDonald's announced plans to increase funding for its tuition program Archways to Opportunity by $150 million over five years starting in 2018. Tuition assistance varies from $2,500 to $3,000 a year depending on whether an employee is full time or part time. Employees must also be in "good standing as determined by the Franchise Owner/Operator," per the company website and can attend a trade school, community college or four-year university.
The Seattle-based coffee chain, though technically not a fast-food restaurant, offers full tuition for Arizona State University's online program, giving its hourly part-time and full-time employees in the U.S. an opportunity to earn a bachelor's degree. Under Starbucks' partnership with ASU, the company reimburses its employees' tuition and fee costs after the end of each semester. The program is available to all benefits-eligible employees who have not previously earned a bachelor's degree. Part-time workers "establish initial benefits eligibility the first day of the second month after receiving a minimum of 240 total hours over three full, consecutive months," according to the company website. Veterans can extend the benefit to one qualified family member.
Pizza joint Papa John's got into the tuition discount action in 2019 when it minted a partnership with the online arm of Purdue University--West Lafayette. The University of Maryland Global has since been added as another partner. The program, known as Dough & Degrees, offers tuition assistance that varies up to full coverage depending on the employee classification. For example, the partner university websites list different discounts for corporate employees compared to those working for franchise owners, meaning team members should check with management to understand the full benefits package available to them. The benefit applies to online programs at the two schools.
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, per the company website, which notes that tuition discounts of up to 51% are available. Through Life Unboxed, the pizza chain provides tuition discounts for several online programs through Excelsior College, as well as the ability to transfer credits from company management-level training toward a degree.
This mid-Atlantic chain, known for selling fast food at its convenience stores, offers tuition assistance. The family-owned business, which has more than 600 locations, offers hourly employees up to $1,500 a year -- $750 per semester -- in tuition reimbursement. The Sheetz website notes that the company "partners with 26 colleges and universities to arrange tuition discounts for our employees." Additional scholarship programs also make funding available to employees and their children.
Taco Bell provides access to tuition discounts through a partnership with Guild Education. According to the Taco Bell website, employees can get tuition discounts of 5% to 20%. The website also notes that employees can get up to $5,250 in funding a year to pursue an online associate degree, bachelor's degree or master's degree. Additionally, college credit based on Taco Bell training may be available from partner universities. Taco Bell also touts academic coaching and financial advising for college through its partnership with Guild Education, as well as the Live Mas Scholarship for restaurant employees.
White Castle, which owned more than 350 restaurants in 2020, offers a 10% tuition discount to its employees who enroll in a degree program offered through Indiana Wesleyan University--National & Global; the institution offers classes online and through more than a dozen 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, though not all programs are eligible for a tuition break.
Fast-food restaurants with tuition assistance programs
-- Chili's Grill & Bar
-- Chipotle Mexican Grill
-- Marco's Pizza
-- Papa John's
-- Pizza Hut
-- Taco Bell
-- White Castle