Starbucks and Arizona State University have announced that they are expanding the tuition fee coverage offered to Starbucks employees for studying at Arizona’s online program from two years to four years.
The coffee giant also agreed to provide faster reimbursement for students. Students will receive their reimbursement at the completion of each semester instead of after completing 21 class credits as it was previously disbursed.
The four year no-tuition-fees program offered in collaboration with ASU provides full-time and part-time Starbucks employees full tuition fee coverage for a bachelor’s degree through ASU’s online program.
“By giving our partners access to four years of full tuition coverage, we provide them with a critical tool for a lifelong opportunity,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said in a statement. “We’re stronger as a nation when everyone is afforded a pathway to success.”
The announcement by Starbucks has been well-received by thousands of Starbucks employees given the high price of college tuition. Bruce Horowitz for USA Today says:
“College tuition costs jumped about 3% in the 2014-15 school year, with in-state tuition at four-year public schools averaging $9,139 for the school year and out-of-state tuition at public schools averaging $22,958.”
Starbucks spokesperson Linda Mills says that more than 114,000 Starbucks employees qualify for the no-tuition fees program.
Employees that take advantage of the initiative have no obligation of returning to their Starbucks position post-graduation or to repay Starbucks.
Arizona State University offers 49 undergraduate programs through its online platform and so far more than 2,000 qualified Starbucks employees have enrolled.
ASU President Michael Crow said in a statement that the program “is a clear expression of Starbucks commitment to its partners and ASU’s continuing mission to provide access to higher education to all qualified students.”
By 2025, Starbucks aims to have 25,000 of its employees graduate from the ASU program, which is estimated to cost about $250 million, Angel Gonzalez of the Seattle Times writes.
The program, which launched in June, 2014, aims to combat dropout after two years’ time by expanding the program to cover all four years of study.
Gonzalez explains that Starbucks’ move is twofold: it makes employment at Starbucks enticing and enhances the company’s brand image, especially after the backlash of the Race Together campaign:
“[Programs] like the college plan, reinforce both its brand positioning and its allure to employees, especially at a time when retail rivals like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s are beginning to increase salaries.”
With surveys pointing out that college graduates earn more than their high-school diploma carrying peers, Starbucks’ move could help more people stay in college and earn their bachelor’s degree. Anne Ryman says of the impact of higher education for college graduates:
“They are also more likely to volunteer and more likely to vote. U.S. Department of Labor statistics indicate a bachelor’s degree recipient can expect to earn 66 percent more over the course of a career than a high-school graduate.”