Perk Alert: Starbucks Brews Up Free College for Veterans’ Families

A cup of java on the house is nice, but so is 100 percent free tuition.
(Photo: Sean Murphy/Getty Images; logo: Starbucks/Facebook)
Nov 9, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Sure, Starbucks is on the receiving end of an angry backlash over the pared-down design of its new red holiday cups, but veterans working at the coffee giant might be in a celebratory mood regardless. The magic words that likely perked them up: free college for your spouse and children.

On Monday, the Seattle-based company doubled down on its commitment to folks who’ve served in the United States Armed Forces by extending its free Starbucks College Achievement Plan to the immediate family members of any vet or active military reservist working 20 hours or more per week. The company is more than halfway toward its goal of hiring 10,000 vets or military spouses by 2018.

RELATED: Top Employers Drafted to Give Vets Jobs, With No Corporate Perks Other Than Serving Their Country

“We have a responsibility as a nation to honor our veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice, but it goes beyond saying thank you—we must put our thanks into action and collectively help those who are making the transition from military to civilian life,” said Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman and CEO, in a statement. “Not only do we have a moral duty to engage veterans once they leave the service, we know that doing so in a meaningful way will ultimately strengthen our nation.”

Launched in June 2014, Starbucks’ college program allows employees to enroll in an online bachelor’s degree program offered by Arizona State University—and Starbucks picks up 100 percent of the tab. With the cost of a college education continuing to rise and 40 million Americans holding $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, that benefit is nothing to sneeze at.

More than 4,000 employees have taken advantage of the perk, according to Starbucks, and it’s made working at the java chain a sought-after job.

In October, Laurel Harper, the global communications manager at Starbucks, told Forbes that the free college program was cited by 63 percent of people applying for a job as “one of the main reasons they’ve applied to work here.” The company has seen an astounding jump in applications—600,000 more in fiscal year 2015 compared with the previous year. Now the family members of vets and active reservists can take advantage of the coveted benefit too.

As for those veterans who aren’t employed by the coffee chain, on Veterans Day a free cup of joe is waiting for them—never mind whether it comes in one of the controversial red cups.