Paul Quinn College in southern Dallas is partnering with Chipotle Mexican Grill in an education initiative that covers 100% of tuition costs up front for eligible employees.
The restaurant chain’s Cultivate Education program can be applied to more than 75 business and technology degrees. The partnership comes as a result of Chipotle’s alliance with Guild Education, a for-profit company that manages tuition reimbursement programs.
After 120 days of employment, Chipotle workers are eligible to pursue debt-free degrees from nonprofit, accredited universities, including Paul Quinn, the nation’s first urban work college and one of its oldest historically Black colleges and universities.
“It expands who we get to define as our students,” Paul Quinn President Michael Sorrell said in an interview with KXAS-TV (NBC 5). “The opportunity to welcome an amazing group of individuals like these to our college, to what we offer, to our culture, is just something we are incredibly thrilled by and frankly quite humbled to have the opportunity to do.”
More than 8,000 Chipotle employees have enrolled in classes since the program launched in 2016, the company said.
“We want to provide employees with the tools to achieve their full potential and recognize that financial barriers can be one of the biggest obstacles for not furthering their education,” Marissa Andrada, chief diversity, inclusion and people officer at Chipotle, said in a written statement. “Ensuring we provide inclusive benefits and a support system for our employees and recognizing the importance of offering an HBCU in our education program will continue to aid in our efforts to cultivate a better world.”
Sorrell also spoke about institutions owning their role in making college more affordable, including by changing fee structures.
“Just like Chipotle found a way to do debt-free education, how about we find a way to make sure that students don’t have to ask multiple generations of their families to go into debt for them to graduate?” he said in the NBC 5 interview. “These types of things, we have to have honest conversations about them, in broad daylight, so that then we can address the issues in a way that leaves everyone better off than when the conversation began.”
This story, originally published in Texas Metro News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and TMN. The partnership seeks to boost coverage of Dallas’ communities of color, particularly in southern Dallas.