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Organizational Change
Chipotle Now Offering Employees Free Degrees in Agriculture, Culinary, Hospitality

As part of Chipotle’s mission to ‘cultivate a better world,’ it has expanded its debt-free degree program to include nearly 100 degree options in these fields at 10 US universities.

Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced it will offer debt-free degrees in Agriculture, Culinary Arts and Hospitality to all eligible employees, in partnership with Guild Education. After four months 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 (OSU). The debt-free education program aligns with the company’s mission to “cultivate a better world” by equipping employees who might lack the resources to pursue an education in these fields with the tools and knowledge they will need to create a better global food system.

Expanding opportunities

Starting April 13, eligible Chipotle employees will be able to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Sciences or Rangeland Sciences online from OSU — one of the top-ranked US colleges for agriculture.

According to the latest Census of Agriculture from the USDA, there are more than six times as many farmers age 65 and older as farmers age 34 and younger, challenging the future of small and mid-sized farms throughout the country. The health, diversity and sustainability of our food system depends on cultivating the next generation of agriculture leaders and farmers, and now Chipotle is giving employees an opportunity to further contribute to its revitalization efforts.  

Chipotle has also 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 ingredients that are responsibly sourced, humanely raised and often locally grown

Chipotle’s commitment to education

In 2019, through its partnership with Guild, Chipotle began offering 100 percent tuition reimbursement up front for 75 different business and technology degrees. Later this year, Chipotle will also offer an expanded selection of Supply Chain programs from OSU and the University of Denver — in addition to the Supply Chain degrees from Bellevue, Brandman and Southern New Hampshire Universities that it currently offers.  

“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.”

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.

With this initiative, Chipotle joins a growing list of companies that are working to create a more inclusive workforce in the US, by connecting underserved groups with the resources they need to pursue higher education and careers in fields that can help tip the balance toward a healthier future:

  • In 2014, Starbucks launched the Starbucks College Achievement Plan — which offered eligible part-time and full-time employees the opportunity to choose from over 40 Bachelor’s degree programs, through a collaboration with Arizona State University's online degree program, with full tuition reimbursement.

  • In 2018, Clif Bar offered four college seniors a Business with Purpose Scholarship — intended to encourage and enable them to pursue meaningful post-graduate experiences and stay true to their own aspirations of making a positive impact through their career, instead of choosing a path based on the pressure of paying down their student debt.

  • In 2020, Microsoft and LinkedIn partnered on a global skills initiative that the companies say provided 30.7 million people with free digital skills training during the pandemic. Their new Career Connector program, launched earlier this month, builds on their efforts to help the people hardest hit by the pandemic — namely, women and minorities — by extending free LinkedIn Learning and Microsoft Learn courses and low-cost certifications that align to 10 of the most in-demand tech and digital jobs, through 2021.

  • In January, Apple launched a set of major new projects as part of its $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, which aims to expand opportunities for communities of color across the country and to help build the next generation of diverse leaders. Among these efforts are the Propel Center — a first-of-its-kind global innovation and learning hub for Historically Black Colleges and Universities; an Apple Developer Academy to support coding and tech education for students in Detroit; and venture capital funding for entrepreneurs of color.