The program offers hourly employees education benefits with upfront college tuition paid.

Chipotle recently announced that its employees will receive a new educational benefit that could make a huge difference in giving them access to higher education.

In an official press release, Chipotle revealed that all eligible employees will be able to pursue a debt-free college degree as part of the expansion of its Chipotle Cultivate Education program.

Through a partnership with Guild Education, the company will offer debt-free degrees, covering 100 percent of tuition costs upfront for 75 different business and technology degrees. Employees, including crew members, who have worked for Chipotle for 120 days, and who work 15 hours or more a week are eligible for the program—close to 80,000 employees by the company's estimate. Employees may choose to pursue degrees at several non-profit, accredited institutions, including Bellevue University, Southern New Hampshire University, The University of Arizona, Brandman University, and Wilmington University.

Chipotle’s Chief People Officer Marissa Andrada states:

"Chipotle recognizes that financial barriers can be one of the biggest obstacles that impede our employees from achieving their fullest potential. We are proud to launch this opportunity for debt-free degrees by providing free tuition to help our employees excel in all areas in their lives, both in and out of Chipotle."

The Cultivate Education Program already includes a tuition reimbursement program for up to $5,250 a year, but the new debt-free program will make higher education more possible, as many working students cannot pay upfront for school costs. Over the last two years, the company says it has paid out over $2 million towards tuition assistance for employees.

Chipotle offers a few different programs to help and boost employees, another one that was announced a few months ago is the Crew Bonus Program, which gives qualifying employees the opportunity to earn up to a month of extra pay each year. 

Guild Education aims to support and pursue its mission "to unlock opportunity for America's workforce through education, with a double bottom-line business model that does well by doing good. Guild partners with leading Fortune 1000 employers to help them provide education benefits to their frontline workforce."

The new partnership comes at a time that tuition costs for college rise and demands of employment make it harder to find time to go to class. A free degree is sure to motivate a lot of people who may not otherwise be able to seek out a degree, and the company reports that through the Cultivate Education Program, over 13,000 employees have been promoted from within after pursuing higher education—and the company plans to continue to do so.

This is a long-lasting befit that will pay off over a lifetime for many folks and could be the changing factor in their pursuit of education.

What's your take on all this? Do you know of other companies that pay upfront tuition costs for employees? Give us the scoop in the comments.