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Could Starbucks Pay Your College Tuition?

World’s largest coffee chain to pay for employees’ online courses.

Patch File Photo
Patch File Photo

By Eleanor Stanford

“What can I get started for you today?” How about a four-year education, Starbucks.

The coffee company will provide free college courses for thousands of its baristas, it announced Monday.

Starbucks employs 135,000 people across America — and 70 percent of them don’t have a college degree. With the new Starbucks College Achievement Plan, employees working 20 hours a week or more will be able to choose from 40 online course options at Arizona State, long a fierce advocate for online degrees.

For a barista who already has two years of college credit or more, Starbucks will pay for all their tuition, and credit can be transferred from other colleges. For employees with fewer college credits their employer will offer partial scholarship and need-based financial aid.

The arrangement is especially unusual as Starbucks won’t require employees to stay with the company after their studies. Instead, the company presented the arrangement as a route to higher wage employment for employees who would otherwise struggle to get an undergraduate degree.

“I believe it will lower attrition, it’ll increase performance, it’ll attract and retain better people, ” Howard D. Schultz, the company’s chairman and chief executive, told The New York Times in an interview.

The new benefit system is equal to about $30,000 per employee, said Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson.

Starbucks has stood out from other low-wage employees by offering baristas stocks in the company since 1992 and more recently by still offering health insurance for part-time employees as other companies dialed back offerings and blamed Obamacare, according to Fox Connecticut. It has nevertheless been criticized for discouraging workers to unionize.

If you’re a Starbucks employee, are you impressed by the Starbucks College Achievement Plan? Can you imagine taking online college courses? Let us know in the Comments section.


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