Chipotle to Offer Free Degrees in Hospitality to Employees

After 120 days of employment, employees are eligible to pursue degrees in Hospitality, Agriculture and Culinary from leading nonprofit, accredited universities.
Anna Wolfe
Senior Editor - Restaurants
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Chipotle Mexican Grill  announced it will offer debt-free degrees in Hospitality, Agriculture and Culinary to all eligible employees in partnership with Guild Education, an education and upskilling company. After only 120 days of employment, employees are eligible to pursue degrees from leading nonprofit, accredited universities, including The University of Arizona, Bellevue University, Brandman University, Paul Quinn College, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University, the University of Denver and soon Johnson & Wales University, and Oregon State University. The new degree offerings build upon Chipotle's best-in-class benefits and closely align with the company's mission to Cultivate a Better World through its real, responsibly-sourced food.

Culinary and Hospitality
Chipotle will be the first of Guild's employer partners to offer debt-free culinary education through renowned culinary institution, Johnson & Wales University (JWU), later this year. The brand will work collaboratively with JWU and Guild to bring associate and bachelors' culinary arts degrees online, as well as an additional Bachelor of Science degree in Food Industry Compliance Management. The associate degree in Culinary Arts will include an experiential education component to give students hands-on opportunities to build their culinary skills. In addition, Chipotle employees will have the opportunity to pursue a selection of bachelor's degree programs in hospitality from Bellevue University, JWU or Oregon State University.

Starting April 13, eligible Chipotle employees will be able to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Sciences or Rangeland Sciences online from Oregon State University, one of the top ranked U.S. colleges for agriculture.

According to the latest Census of Agriculture from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are more than six times as many farmers age 65 and older as farmers age 34 and younger*, challenging future of small and mid-sized farms throughout the country. Chipotle recognizes that the future of real food depends on cultivating the next generation of agriculture leaders and farmers, and now the brand is giving employees an opportunity to further contribute to its revitalization efforts. 

Chipotle has committed $5 million over five years to help remove barriers and enable the next generation of farmers and ranchers to succeed. Last year, the brand spent more than $300 million in food premiums to purchase supplies that are responsibly sourced, humanely raised and often locally grown.

Supply Chain
Later this year, Chipotle will also offer an expanded selection of Supply Chain programs from Oregon State University and the University of Denver. The company currently offers Supply Chain degrees from Bellevue University, Brandman University, and Southern New Hampshire University. 

"Diversifying our debt-free degree program with new majors and partner universities makes our educational benefits even more inclusive," said Marissa Andrada, Chief Diversity, Inclusion and People Officer at Chipotle. "Through our partnership with Guild, we are committed to accelerating our employees' professional growth and helping them achieve personal success by offering opportunities to pursue career paths in their particular area of interest."

Chipotle's Continued Commitment to Education
In 2019, Chipotle announced it will cover 100% of tuition costs up front for 75 different business and technology degrees through its partnership with Guild. Chipotle added this employee benefit to give employees the chance to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the evolving 21st century job market.

The debt-free degree program is a key component of Chipotle's Cultivate Education program, which includes an Existing Tuition Reimbursement Program, allowing eligible employees to be reimbursed for tuition up to $5,250 per year in qualifying programs.

Program Impact

  • To date, Chipotle has seen a retention rate of 3.5x higher among students who are enrolled in Cultivate Education.

  • Crew members using the benefit are 7.5x more likely to move into a management role within the organization.

  • Of those using the benefit, 85% of students are crew members, and the benefit has the biggest impact on their growth and tenure.

"Chipotle's debt-free degree program expansion highlights its deep commitment to employees' economic opportunity and professional advancement," said Natalie McCullough, President and Chief Commercial Officer at Guild Education. "By expanding Cultivate Education to include a variety of programs aligned to the company's mission, Chipotle is continuing to lead as an innovator in employee development and wellness."

Along with access to higher education, Chipotle offers an industry-first Crew Bonus program, which allows its restaurant employees the opportunity to earn an extra month's worth of pay each year for meeting certain criteria. Qualifying crew members can also take advantage of a full suite of benefits including access to healthcare; fitness discounts; and free English as a second language and GED classes for employees and family members.