Aramark will cover hourly employees' college tuition

Aramark says it will begin paying for its hourly workers to pursue degrees.

The company, which provides food, facilities management and uniform services for schools, businesses and other groups, announced Wednesday that its hourly associates across the U.S. will be eligible for full tuition coverage for college degrees through its new “Frontline Education Program.”

For now, eligible employees will be limited to Arizona State University (ASU), but Aramark workers who don’t live in Arizona will still be able to participate. ASU offers dozens of undergraduate programs online and is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 2 best online bachelor’s program.

A company spokesperson said InStride, the group Aramark has partnered with for the tuition program, expects to add more schools in the future.

The application process for the program will begin this October with enrollment for the spring 2020 semester and will continue annually, according to Aramark. Eligible employees who apply aren’t guaranteed that they’ll be accepted, but the company said there is an earned admission path for those who aren’t immediately accepted.

Aramark said the education program is part of a $90 million investment it’s making in its employees that also includes targeted wage and benefit increases and additional development opportunities.

“Our mission to enrich and nourish lives means we have a responsibility to help our employees achieve their full potential and lead fulfilling lives,” said Aramark chairman, president and CEO Eric J. Foss. “Education is key to making that happen and we are proud to provide this learning pathway to our dedicated frontline team members who want to advance their education and grow their careers.”

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Aramark said it has 130,000 “frontline” employees across the country. In May, the company reported Q2 revenue increased 2 percent to $4 billion. Foss said then that the company was “making deliberate investments to support new and existing clients.”

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“In the near term, we are taking strategic portfolio actions to optimize returns and focus on new opportunities in the marketplace,” he said. “As demonstrated by our solid first half performance, we expect 2019 to be another year of growth across revenue, earnings and cash flow.”