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12 fast-food jobs that pay for college  

With the cost of a college education continuing to rise, tuition reimbursement is more important today than ever before. While a fast food job may not sound like the best way to pay for college, many restaurants now provide some serious tuition benefits. Keep reading to see which employers offer the best college-savings perks.

Starbucks

The Seattle-based coffee chain offers full tuition for Arizona State University’s online program, giving its hourly employees an opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree. Under Starbucks’ partnership with ASU, the company reimburses its employees’ tuition costs after the end of each semester. To qualify, Starbucks hourly employees must work an average of 20 hours a week, and they’re eligible from the first day of employment. The company says more than 10,000 employees are currently participating in the program.

McDonald’s

Following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017, the fast-food giant McDonald’s announced plans to increase funding for its tuition program Archways to Opportunity by $150 million over five years starting in 2018. Tuition assistance varies from $2,500 to $3,000 a year depending on whether an employee is full time or part time. Employees must also be in “good standing as determined by the Franchise Owner/Operator,” per the company website and can attend a trade school, community college or four-year university.

Papa John’s

Pizza joint Papa John’s got into the tuition discount action in 2019 when it minted a partnership with the online arm of Purdue University–West Lafayette. The University of Maryland Global has since been added as another partner. The program, known as Dough & Degrees, offers tuition assistance that varies up to full coverage depending on the employee classification. For example, the partner university websites list different discounts for corporate employees compared to those working for franchise owners, meaning team members should check with management to understand the full benefits package available to them. The benefit applies to online programs at the two schools.

Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC

Yum! brands, which owns Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC, offers up to $5,350 of tuition reimbursement to employees. Employees and their children also have the opportunity to earn a $2,500 scholarship. This tuition reimbursement benefit is offered to all Yum! employees and their immediate family members after being employed at the company for at least 60 days.

Marco’s Pizza

The pizza chain, founded in Toledo, Ohio, began offering educational perks to its full- and part-time members in 2017. Team members can receive up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursement per year if they pursue an online degree at Bellevue University. To qualify, employees need to work at Marco’s Pizza for at least 30 days.

Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A offers scholarships and tuition assistance benefits to Team Members, as well as their family. Tuition discounts and grants from Chick-fil-A can be applied to more than 100 colleges and universities around the U.S., like Boston University, Purdue University, and Oglethorpe University. If a Team Member finds that the school they would like to attend is not a part of the program, they can actually submit a request to have the institution formally added.

To qualify for tuition assistance at Chick-fil-A, Team Members must simply be employed by a Chick-fil-A Franchisee, a Chick-fil-A, Inc.-operated restaurant, or an STC brand restaurant. To apply, Team Members should reach out to their local Operator, Interim Manager, or Executive General Manager.

Chipotle Mexican Grill

The chain known for its Mission-style burritos reimburses employees’ tuition up to the IRS limit of $5,250. Employees can reimburse classes from accredited two- or four-year institutions or from a technology or vocational school. Salaried employees and hourly managers at Chipotle are eligible right away, but hourly crew members must wait at least a year. The burrito chain also offers up to 38 college credits through on-the-job training – reducing the number of credits needed toward a bachelor’s degree.

White Castle

White Castle, which owned more than 350 restaurants in 2020, offers a 10% tuition discount to its employees who enroll in a degree program offered through Indiana Wesleyan University–National & Global; the institution offers classes online and through more than a dozen education centers in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. Full- and part-time employees who work for the hamburger chain can receive discounts for associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs at IWU, though not all programs are eligible for a tuition break.

Sheetz

This mid-Atlantic chain, known for selling fast food at its convenience stores, offers tuition assistance. The family-owned business, which has more than 600 locations, offers hourly employees up to $1,500 a year — $750 per semester — in tuition reimbursement. The Sheetz website notes that the company “partners with 26 colleges and universities to arrange tuition discounts for our employees.” Additional scholarship programs also make funding available to employees and their children.

Chili’s Grill & Bar

Chili’s, a fast-casual dining chain with more than 1,200 U.S. locations in 2020, offers the Best You EDU program to help eligible employees earn an associate degree online at no cost through a partnership with publishing giant Pearson Education. The program is free and available for any employee who works at least 24 hours per week with a minimum tenure of 90 days.

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