Chipotle to Offer Free College, But Not Guacamole

Illustration for article titled Chipotle to Offer Free College, But Not Guacamole
Photo: Chipotle.com

In a move that really should have been titled ‘Burritos for Business People,’ Chipotle has announced that it will be covering full tuition for employees earning “degrees in business and technology.” As I type this, I’m staring at my liberal arts degree that I haven’t paid off and wondering where I went wrong in life.

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The new initiative is a part of Chipotle’s Cultivate Education program, which will allow employees who have been working at the company for more than 120 days to pursue one of 75 different degrees, all in the business or tech fields. This is on top of an existing policy that reimburses Chipotle employees for school fees up to $5250 a year. So while the philosophy major prepping your burrito will incur some debt, the line cook studying information technology will graduate debt-free. The guacamole will still be extra.

While this move is an incredible stroke of generosity from a company that made $4.9 billion (with a B!) last year, it’s also a reminder of the bleak reality of the American education system. Chipotle’s plan exists because college is not affordable without outside wealth or other reinforcements. It
devalues the choices of people who aim for less practical degrees—like, oh, I don’t know a degree in journalism. Even as it alleviates some of the burdens of paying for school, Chipotle forces people to choose between pursuing their passions or assured financial stability.

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It’s also a program designed to reward men. While women attend college at higher rates than men (and make up 72% of graduates), they are underrepresented in those fields. While women are the principal users for most technology, they earn computer science degrees less frequently than their male colleagues. Women make up fewer than 20% of those studying for bachelor’s degrees in computer science; only 35% of STEM degrees are awarded to women.

These educational barriers happen long before women enter these fields, where they face pay disparity—a gap that’s even more severe for women of color and trans women and non-binary people.

So sure, folding that oversized burrito to the perfect shape can pay for college and even provide health insurance. But we can’t all get jobs at Chipotle. (I know, I’ve tried already.) And while the example that Chipotle sets forth is astonishing for a fast-food company, it’s unfathomable that for some, the only path to a college education has to be through the bank account of a billion-dollar business.

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DISCUSSION

drpinguino
Dr. Pinguino

That’s the problem with the current obsession with STEM; it implicitly devalues other ‘less useful’ (taken from the fact that people are less willing to pay you for it) majors/degrees. As you noted, women are under-represented in STEM fields but over-represented in things like primary education and community/human services, and yet those jobs are expected to earn lower amounts of money because they are ‘worth less’ or ‘anyone can do it.’ As if those jobs aren’t responsible for teaching children to become educated citizens, or organizing communities to include civic activities/engagement, or being responsible for elder/disability care. But that’s not ‘real’ work... oh no, you gotta be an innovator and a big money maker (that’s how we assess a human’s value, right?) to be worth something. We don’t need people to know how to write effectively or think critically and creatively; that’s a waste of time when you could be building value for brands! Get that business degree like everyone else; it’ll end up like the overabundance of law degree recipients out there who aren’t practicing. Real healthy way to think about what a college degree is worth. This country’s (and it’s business’s) priorities are built to value profit above all else. Just look at the ‘booming’ economy and ever-rising GDP and then at stagnant wages; now try to tell me that value is trickling down.

Sorry for the rant. And yes, I realize it’s much more nuanced and complex than I’ve boiled it down to, but so is doing something that is not about ‘how much money am I going to make?’