Standing up for young americans

Starbucks: Now serving college educations!

Yesterday, news broke that Starbucks partnered with Arizona State University to offer their employees highly discounted online degrees. Any employee who works 20 hours or more a week will have the option of taking online courses in any of 40 different areas of study.

The object of this partnership, according to both Starbucks and Arizona State, is giving low-income workers a chance at higher education—proven to lead to better outcomes later on. Starbucks also hopes this will help them retain talent and save on training costs, but there is no obligation to continue with Starbucks after an employee has graduated.

This program is especially impressive given the skyrocketing cost of a college degree, and the fact that many other companies have been cutting back their education assistance. Starbucks also does not require that employees only take courses relevant to their work with the company. Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, believes the plan will only improve performance and retention.

Is this plan better than what most other retail and fast food employers are offering? Absolutely, but that doesn’t make it perfect. Starbucks had a previous tuition reimbursement program that provided employees with a large number of colleges to choose from. In the new plan, employees can only attend Arizona State, and only online, if they want financial assistance. Employees who are not a good fit for the school or who do not benefit from online courses (which many do not) have zero alternatives.

So, while this is significantly more than what other companies are providing, is it an actual attempt to address the serious problem of rising college costs, or is it simply a PR move for Starbucks?