Workers filled orders at a Fort Wayne McDonald's on Thursday morning as officials from the fast-food chain and Ivy Tech Community College announced a statewide partnership that could make it easier for those employees to access higher education.
Through McDonald's Archways to Opportunity, employees who work at least 90 days at 15 hours a week will be eligible for tuition assistance of up to $3,000 annually, depending on their job. The program launched in 2015.
The new partnership with Ivy Tech “takes our tuition assistance program even further,” said McDonald's owner/operator Mike Kefer, who hosted the announcement at his store along St. Joe Center Road just north of Ivy Tech Fort Wayne buildings.
“Each Ivy Tech campus will dedicate an adviser to McDonald's employee enrollment, questions and scheduling needs,” Ivy Tech President Sue Ellspermann said in a statement. “We are committed to helping each and every employee further their education and achieve their dreams.”
McDonald's employees may also receive college credit at Ivy Tech for certain workplace training or experiences, said Jerrilee Mosier, chancellor of Ivy Tech Fort Wayne.
It's not unusual for employers to offer tuition assistance programs, Mosier said, but those often involve employers sending workers back to school for additional certifications.
If Mosier were a high school student, she said, “I would be exploring this opportunity.”
Amanda Ratton, a McDonald's general manager in Avilla, expects it will be popular. Along with personally benefiting from it, she said, she knew of four others who are or will likely pursue it.
That's “just at my store,” Ratton said.
A banner promoting the partnership with Ivy Tech was prominently displayed near the eatery's ordering counter, and other promotional materials were in the dining area.
The tuition assistance aligns well with the needs of many Ivy Tech students, most of whom work while attending school, Mosier said.
Ivy Tech expects the number of McDonald's employees enrolled at the community college will increase with this alliance, Mosier said. Financial aid teams at all Ivy Tech locations will share details about the tuition assistance program as they meet with incoming students and high school parents, she added.
“By only requiring 90 days and 15 hours a week, McDonald's is defining the concept of 'nearly free community college,' as Ivy Tech's affordable tuition would allow a student to complete more than 15 credits per year for free, one course each eight weeks,” Mosier said, reading from prepared remarks.
Gov. Eric Holcomb endorsed the effort.
“This is the exact kind of forward-thinking partnership that enables Indiana to develop our skilled and ready workforce,” Holcomb said in a statement. “The combined strength of these two great entities will allow thousands of students to pursue their dreams and simultaneously help keep Indiana's economy moving full steam ahead.”
Kefer invited community members to visit any Fort Wayne-area McDonald's to get information.
“Or stop in and get a job,” he added.