Papa Johns Made Higher Education More Affordable For Its Employees

Some American corporations are embracing the concept of higher education as an employee benefit, with major players such as Starbucks, Mcdonald's, and Pizza Hut rolling out or improving tuition and degree programs. Some might even trend toward offering free, easily accessible education benefits, evidenced by the latest developments from the Papa Johns pizza chain.

Papa Johns took the Number 15 spot on the QSR "Biggest Fast-food Chains in America" list, reported in September 2021. It holds just over 3,000 total units in the USA, including 600 company stores and 2,564 franchises. That equates to a lot of employees in the United States alone, not counting its operations in 45 countries worldwide, per Papa Johns. At least some of those workers may want to get an academic degree.

Accordingly, the newly unveiled employee education benefits stand to have ripple effects through the company as well as the future trajectories of employees. That's especially true because they aren't tied to long-term work commitments at Papa Johns, according to QSR Magazine.

New program perks

Papa Johns is no newcomer to the concept of higher education benefiting a company and its employees. Its "Dough and Degrees" program, launched in 2019, already allows employees of company-owned stores to attend college at no charge through online university partners, explains a press release published by Business Wire. They can choose any field of study, and the benefit crosses the spectrum of employee positions, including frontline restaurant workers, delivery drivers, and corporate positions.

The company's announcement in September 2022 builds on that program in substantial ways. First, the Dough and Degrees tuition perks now apply to any corporate employee team member who works at least 10 hours weekly, expanding the pool of eligible participants. CNBC notes how about 12,000 employees could potentially benefit from free college degrees. Working with EdAssist by Bright Horizons, it will also expand the scope of education programs. New benefits include earning high school diplomas and English as a Second Language (ESL) courses. Around 200 professional development courses cover fields such as technology, marketing, business, and finance. Employees of franchised venues receive discounts instead of free education.

Unlike some other companies, Papa Johns pays tuition upfront rather than reimbursing workers, notes QSR Magazine. Making education easily accessible encourages participation. Jill Buban from EdAssist tells CNBC that it makes sense to financially upskill existing employees rather than recruit new ones. Perhaps it will also aid hiring efforts, as 48% of employers surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management reportedly provide undergrad benefits.