Starbucks announced today that it will pay for any of its 135,000 workers’ college educations through Arizona State University’s nationally respected online program.
“Supporting our partners’ ambitions is the very best investment Starbucks can make,” Starbucks president and CEO Howard Schultz said in a statement. “Everyone who works as hard as our partners do should have the opportunity to complete college, while balancing work, school and their personal lives.”
The Starbucks College Achievement Program goes into effect this fall is will be available to anyone who works more than 20 hours per week at Starbucks or any of its affiliated stores. Full tuition reimbursement is available to those enrolled as juniors or seniors; freshmen and sophomores are eligible for partial tuition scholarship and need-based financial aid.
Starbucks spokeswoman Laurel Harper told USA Today it’s too early to tell what the cost will be to the corporation. However, considering 70 percent of workers are “students or aspiring students,” they anticipate it will be a significant investment.
“We will focus on helping our partners cross the finish line and complete their bachelor’s degrees,” she said. The company noted that 1-in-2 U.S. undergraduates “fail to complete their degrees due to mounting debt, a tenuous work-life balance and a lack of supper.”
Tammie Lopez, a Starbucks employee who dropped out of California State University to help her struggling family make ends meet, said she plans to take advantage of the new program.
“I never thought this was possible. I’ve seen documentaries where people have their school paid for and I always thought those people are blessed. That’s amazing,” she said. “Starbucks is lifting such a weight off my shoulders.”
Arizona State University offers 33 undergraduate degrees through its online program. It is named in the top 10 of U.S. News & World Report‘s online bachelors-degree programs. A credit hour costs between $480 and $543. A student is considered full-time with 12 credit hours, so an average semester’s tuition is roughly $6,000.