The average amount of college debt for students graduating from Delaware colleges has increased at a rate higher than any other state over the last decade.
Delaware News Journal
As college debt continues to soar among Delaware students, Chipotle is cooking up a creative cost-saving solution for its employees.
The latest in a tide of national brands expanding benefits for young employees, Chipotle introduced a program Tuesday that allows employees to pursue a college degree debt-free at five institutions across the country, including Wilmington University.
Through a partnership with Guild Education, a company that works as an intermediary between companies and employees to offer education benefits, Chipotle is covering all costs up-front for 75 different business and technology degrees. The only immediate out of pocket expense is books.
Chipotle Mexican Grill (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
“Chipotle recognizes that financial barriers can be one of the biggest obstacles that impede our employees from achieving their fullest potential,” Chipotle Chief People Officer Marissa Andrada said in a statement.
Wilmington University declined an interview request on Wednesday. When asked via email how and why Wilmington University partnered with Guild and Chipotle, the university’s president Dr. LaVerne Harmon responded with the following statement.
“Wilmington University chose to partner with Guild Education who is a leader in connecting working adults with educational opportunities,” Harmon said. “This has been our mission for over 50 years. Wilmington University is delighted to be a part of Chipotle’s vision to help employees reach their academic goals and improve their lives through education.”
At Wilmington University, Chipotle employees can pursue degrees related to marketing, computer science and organizational and business management.
In a statement, Guild spokesperson Ricki Eshman touted Wilmington University’s “flexible, adaptive curriculum” for adult learners as a reason for the partnership.
Chipotle will cover 100% of tuition costs up front for its employees at five schools, including Wilmington University, as part of expanded employee benefits announced Tuesday. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Chipotle has six locations in New Castle County and eight throughout Delaware. With about 25 employees per location, according to Chipotle’s annual shareholder report, the company employees roughly 200 people in Delaware.
The average amount of debt for students graduating from Delaware colleges has increased faster than any other state in the last decade, according to a July Delaware Online/The News Journal report. Graduates in the state face an average college debt burden of $36,276. Only 38% of students graduate debt-free.
Chipotle’s program follows a trend of national companies offering expanded benefits such as college prep and subsidized tuition, in order to attract young workers amid record-low unemployment.
Wilmington University is one of the six schools associated with Walmart’s “Live Better U” initiative, which allows employees to earn degrees in fields ranging from computer science to cybersecurity for $1 a day. McDonald’s, Disney, Lowe’s, Lyft and Taco Bell also offer similar programs through Guild.
The programs help large employers target one section of the workforce that isn’t fully engaged: young people. Only 29% of 16- to 19-year-olds in the U.S. are employed year round, according to the Pew Research Center.
Chipotle’s debt-free degree program builds on an existing program that allowed employees to be reimbursed for tuition up to $5,250 a year at the school of their choice. To be eligible for either, employees have to be employed for 120 days.
Contact Brandon Holveck at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (302) 324-2267. Follow on Twitter @holveck_brandon.
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