McDonald’s announced last week that it was expanding its education benefits program for employees to both increase the value of the benefit and widen the pool of employees who are eligible for it, USA Today reported on Thursday:
Previously, employees had to be on the job for nine months before having a shot at tuition assistance, but that’s been dropped to 90 days. Plus, the weekly shift minimum was 20 hours and now is 15 hours. The changes will make close to 400,000 U.S. employees eligible, the company said. Now, staffers can get as much as $2,500 a year from the Archways to Opportunity program for a trade school, a community college or a four-year university — up from $700. For managers, the figure jumps from $1,050 per year to $3,000.
Some employees’ family members will also now be eligible for assistance. The changes, which McDonald’s attributed to a tight labor market and the savings it accrued from the recent cut in the corporate tax rate, are funded by a $150 million commitment the fast-food giant is making to the program over the coming five years. Since launching in 2015, the company says, Archways to Opportunity has distributed over $21 million in assistance to around 24,000 people.
The program, which is open to employees of both McDonald’s franchises and company-owned restaurants, is offered in partnership with the online education company Cengage Learning. Amanda Eisenberg goes into more detail about how the expanded program will work at Employee Benefit News:
Eligible employees can enroll in an 18-credit Cengage course, which costs $1,295 per student and offers four elective courses; those classes lead to entry-level workforce tracks, such as restaurant and safety, retail and customer service, and child development. The company says eligible restaurant employees will have access to career exploration resources later this year.
Employees can apply the funding to costs related to community college, a four-year university or trade school, the company says. There is no lifetime cap on tuition assistance, which is effective as of May 1 and retroactive to Jan. 1.
McDonald’s latest move comes just a week after Taco Bell announced that it was expanding its own tuition benefit program, a partnership with Guild Education, after successfully piloting it at 700 restaurants. Other food service chains like Chipotle (also in partnership with Guild) and Ben & Jerry’s have introduced similar education benefits for their employees in recent years. A historically tight labor market in the US means that organizations now have a stronger incentive to retain and develop even entry-level employees, as traditionally high-turnover employers like retailers and fast food restaurants find themselves competing for scarce talent.