Best Job Freebie Yet: Starbucks Offers Employees Money for College

Would you like whipped cream with that? Because this gig comes with a cherry on top.

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks. (Photo: David Ryder/Reuters)

Jun 16, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Isabel Weisz is an editorial intern for summer 2014. She is an environmental analysis & policy major at Pitzer College and is originally from Santa Cruz, Calif.

Free cups of coffee and health benefits aren’t the only perks of working as a barista at Starbucks these days.

Starting this fall, some employees working 20 hours a week or more will be eligible to apply for the Starbucks College Achievement Plan through Arizona State University’s online program. Enrolled juniors and seniors can qualify for full tuition reimbursement, while freshmen and sophomores can get partial aid.

Combined with university financial aid and Pell Grants, this could be a real game changer.

Under the new plan, employees can pick any of the 40 types of degrees offered at the university, and they aren’t obligated to keep working at Starbucks after graduation. The perk applies to employees of any store operated by Starbucks, including Teavana, La Boulange, Evolution Fresh, and Seattle’s Best Coffee stores.

The program is only offered for online students, which has its drawbacks—no on-campus college experience, for example—but the pros may outweigh the cons. No relocation is necessary, there’s no application deadline, and graduates would receive a diploma from the university ranked the second most innovative school in the country.

Not to mention that the acceptance rate is 89 percent. If you get into ASU Online, perhaps applying to Starbucks is next on the to-do list. But how feasible is this?

“I applied online, then had an interview within a week, and they called me back later that day,” said Portland, Ore., Starbucks employee Molly Gilholm.

Partners (as the company calls its employees) working in the U.S. can apply to save around $6,000 dollars a semester, in the case of juniors and seniors.

Not only are students given financial support, but they also get a “personal level of support, custom-built for each partner, including a dedicated enrollment coach, financial aid counselor and academic advisor,” according to the plan.

Starbucks is attempting to break down the barriers of higher education in a win-win-win situation for the company, the university, and employees. A surge of students looking to enroll at ASU and a boost in Starbucks employment are more than likely to occur simultaneously, while employee opportunities continue to rise as well.

On Monday, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said in a statement, “We’re going to try to build a business that creates a fragile balance between profitability and social conscience.”

Schultz has stood out among his peers for backing a boost in the minimum wage in the past, and he seems intent on remaining a pioneer in corporate social responsibility.

While ASU Online is the only school currently involved in the plan, Arne Duncan, head of the U.S. Department of Education, puts forth the question that naturally follows this bold move in attempting to close the gap in higher education: “Where are the other universities that are going to step up and partner?”