Starbucks, for providing many perks that aren’t common in the service industry, now is going to pay for the last two years of college for any employee. In a deal the coffeehouse made with Arizona State University, Starbucks will reimburse full tuition for employees who enroll as juniors and seniors in ASU’s online program. Freshmen and sophomores will also be eligible for a partial scholarship and need-based financial aid.
The program does not require workers to stay at Starbucks after they earn their degrees, either. The option is offered to all 135,000 U.S. employees who work at least 20 hours a week. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was scheduled to announce the program Monday in New York City, with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and around 340 workers and their family members in attendance.
“Starbucks is going where no other major corporation has gone,” said Jamie P. Merisotis, president and chief executive of the Lumina Foundation, a group focused on education. “For many of these Starbucks employees, an online university education is the only reasonable way they’re going to get a bachelor’s degree.”
Arizona State and Starbucks say they aren’t sure how many Starbucks employees will take advantage of the program, but are expecting thousands to enroll. Tuition for Arizona State’s online undergraduate courses are usually around $500 per credit and it takes about 120 of those credits to earn a degree.
Many of the people working at Starbucks don’t have time to attend a normal four-year degree program and study. This option allows employees the opportunity to both work and attend school on a schedule that works for them, while also preventing the tremendous debt that often comes with a college degree.