Coffee and college have always gone hand-in-hand, but Starbucks is taking that relationship to a new level with a program that will soon provide thousands of Starbucks employees with free online college educations.
The coffee chain is partnering with Arizona State University (ASU), awarding scholarships to part-time and full-time student workers, without requiring them to remain at the company.
The unique program is open to the company’s some 135,000 US employees, provided that the employees are juniors or seniors in college, work at a Starbucks location at least 20 hours a week, and have the test scores and grades to gain admittance at Arizona State.
Though only workers with two years’ worth of college credits can receive full scholarships, Baristas who don’t meet that requirement are still eligible to receive large scholarships that pay for their education in part with government and university aid.
The program is a smart ploy to show that a corporation as large as Starbucks still has a heart, without showing the CEO cuddling with a few kittens. Although that word work nearly as well.
It’s a refreshing move from a major business showing they have a philanthropic side too. Granted, many other companies provide tuition reimbursement, but these Starbucks scholarships for employees are so far unrivaled in their generosity and lack of restrictions.
“Starbucks is going where no other major corporation has gone,” said Jamie P. Merisotis, president and chief executive of the Lumina Foundation, an education group. “For many of these Starbucks employees, an online university education is the only reasonable way they’re going to get a bachelor’s degree.”
This sort of progressive treatment of low-wage service employees is nothing new from Starbucks, a company that has for decades provided health insurance and stock options for even part-time employees.