With US college rates at their peak, US student debt larger than credit card debit and mounting pressures to maintain a work-life balance, higher education is out of the reach of many people in the US. An internal survey at Starbucks confirmed that higher education was the No. 1 concern for its employees as well, and 70% of Starbucks employees do not have a degree.
Against this grim backdrop, Starbucks’ announcement that it would pay for US employees to complete their degrees through online courses at Arizona State University (ASU), was received with much applause.
Watch the video: Starbucks College achievement Plan
The Starbucks College Achievement Plan is open to Starbucks’s 135,000 employees in the US, provided they work a minimum of 20 hours a week and have the grades to get admission to ASU.
Employees with two years of college credit under their belt qualify for full payment on the remaining courses needed to complete their degrees. Those with less than two years of cred qualify for partial payment – but can also apply for government financial aid and university aid to make ends meet.
ASU offers 40 different degrees and will also provide Starbucks employees with academic advising and assistance on paperwork. Its online program is one of the largest in the country, and is ranked in the top 10 online programs by public and private universities (2014 US News & World Report).
The partnership with ASU is an evolution of Starbucks’ education assistance program, bringing free or affordable education within the reach of more employees. Previously, the company reimbursed employees for only $1,000 a year on courses taken at City University of Seattle and Strayer University.
‘Lower attrition and better retention’
Another plus point for employees – they are not legally required to stay with Starbucks after they complete their degrees. Inversely, Starbucks CEO Howard D. Schultz believes that the investment in human capital “will lower attrition, it’ll increase performance, it’ll attract and retain better people.”
The move further inflates Starbucks’ reputation as a good employer – the company already treats employees as ‘partners’ and offers healthcare, adoption assistance, stock options and other perks.
By expanding the pool of educated Starbucks employees, the company also makes way for internal mobility – more employees can climb to senior positions within the company.
The announcement brings new opportunity and hope many employees and their families. The news created a buzz on traditional media and social media – employees shared their pride in their company and others commented that it made them consider working for Starbucks.
Other brands that offer employees education assistance include Walmart, UPS, McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts (see also: College for America – a program at Southern New Hampshire University that companies can tie up with).
This post is part of the People’s Insights monthly brief for June + July.