ASU partners with Starbucks to offer employees college tuition

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Starbucks employees are now able to get more than just free coffee. They can now have their college tuition covered. (As long as they become a Sun Devil, that is!)

On Monday, Starbucks and Arizona State University (ASU) announced the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a first-of-its-kind program designed to unleash lifetime opportunity for thousands of eligible part-time and full-time U.S. employees.

Starbucks chairman, president and CEO Howard Schultz made the announcement from New York City. He was joined by ASU president Dr. Michael M. Crow and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to officially launch the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.

“It's going to cost millions of dollars, but I don't view it as a cost. This is an investment and I am so confident that this investment is going to drive performance and enhance value for our shareholders,” said Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks.

The plan will create an opportunity for eligible employees to finish a bachelor’s degree online with full tuition reimbursement for juniors and seniors.

“What we want to do is create a degree completion program that'll make them successful, give them a very high quality degree from a discovery base institution like ASU,” said Phil Regier, the Dean of ASU Online.

According to the terms of the plan, employees working an average of 20 hours per week at any company-operated store can choose from more than 40 undergraduate degree programs taught by ASU, such as electrical engineering, education, business and retail management.

"50 percent of students who start post-secondary education, which is after high school, don't complete in this country," says Regier. "We're not keeping up with the rest of the world, and we're continuing to fall behind."

Starbucks employees admitted to ASU as a junior or senior will earn full tuition reimbursement for each semester of full-time coursework they complete toward a bachelor’s degree. Freshmen and sophomores will be eligible for a partial tuition scholarship and need-based financial aid for two years of full-time study. The employees will have no commitment to remain at the company past graduation.

The reimbursement program isn't just for employees in Tempe or the rest of the Valley, because the education is online. It's for any Starbucks employee across the U.S.

“ASU is pioneering a new university model focused on inclusivity and degree completion, and Starbucks is establishing a new precedent for the responsibility and role of a public company that leads through the lens of humanity and supports its partners’ life goals with access to education,” said ASU president Dr. Michael M. Crow. “We are very pleased to collaborate with Starbucks, who has impressed us with its strong commitment to its employees by providing this unique opportunity for a first-class college education. ASU has the vision, programs and scale to deliver it to Starbucks employees in every part of the country.”

ASU is gaining national attention for its efforts to increase access to high-quality, rigorous education with a focus on inclusion and impact.  ASU is ranked the second most innovative school in the country by U.S. News & World Report, and ranks fifth in the nation in producing the best-qualified graduates, according to a Wall Street Journal survey of campus recruiters.  Additionally, ASU is among the top producers of students awarded Fulbright scholarships to study and teach abroad, now ranking third in the nation for research institutions, tied with Princeton and Rutgers, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In addition to financial support, Starbucks and ASU have developed an innovative retention model to support the unique needs of working students.  Partners will have a dedicated enrollment coach, financial aid counselor and academic adviser to support them through graduation.  The program also will include adaptive learning services to help students progress at the right pace for them, networking and community-building opportunities and additional resources to help students plan their educations.

The alliance between Starbucks and ASU was inspired by participation in the Markle Economic Future Initiative, co-chaired by Howard Schultz and Markle President Zoë Baird, with Dr. Michael Crow as one of its members. The Initiative is committed to expanding opportunities that help Americans succeed in the global digital economy and reignite faith that the American Dream is achievable.

To watch an informational video, download photos and read interviews and stories with Howard Schultz, Dr. Crow and partners, visit