With college costs and student debt on the rise, Starbucks recently revealed its new partnership with Arizona State University (ASU) to provide 135,000 U.S. employees with a significantly discounted education.
Starbucks employees who do not currently hold a bachelor’s degree and work at least 20 hours a week are eligible to choose from 40 online degree programs at ASU with no obligation to the company following graduation. The plan is not only open to Starbucks employees, but also to those working at the company’s support centers, plants and its other stores, including Teavana and Seattle’s Best Coffee.
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, education benefits were the first to go and last to be reinstated; the coffee magnate made its way into the education system and is providing its employees the opportunity to get an education without losing their jobs.
The plan will allow Starbucks employees to earn a diploma with less debt than their peers. Juniors and seniors will essentially receive these years of their degree for free, and freshmen and sophomores will have decreased tuition and fees.
Regardless of the school year, employees will receive a scholarship that drastically reduces the cost of tuition. For instance, it will allow freshmen and sophomores to pay $6,500 over a two-year period, only a fraction of the total cost of tuition of $30,000. Juniors and seniors receive a discounted price of $12,600 for tuition.
Freshmen and sophomores are expected to pay the remainder of their tuition out-of-pocket or with financial aid, whereas juniors and seniors would be reimbursed for their educational costs through the company. The plan has been criticized for only offering reimbursement each time a junior or senior completes and pays for 21 credit hours.
Until Starbucks reimburses the total of junior and senior employees’ out-of-pocket costs, employees are not expected to pay more than half of the full price and the company will help arrange student loans to help cover expenses, Starbucks Strategy Director Lacey All said to the New York Times.
The plan is getting national attention as one of the few instances of a minimum wage company providing educational benefits to its employees on such a large scale. It’s time for more major corporations to wake up and smell the coffee, especially since they hold the future of the nation’s economy in their bank accounts.
Companies such as Exxon Mobile, Publix and UPS also offer education benefits to their employees, with some paying the full amount of tuition and fees as well as working with employees to schedule shifts that are more flexible for their academic lives.
Additionally, Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of EdVisors.com, which provides information on paying for college, told the Huffington Post federal aid could lead to increased revenue for ASU and Starbucks could become more appealing to a broader, more diverse group of employees looking to take advantage of the program.
While many students are postponing an education due to financial instability, Starbucks is setting a precedent that should be followed.
Brandon Shaik is a senior majoring in psychology.