Starbucks Offers Online College Classes To Its Employees For Free
June 16, 2014

Starbucks Offers Online College Classes To Its Employees For Free

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

With many of its employees expressing a desire to earn a college degree, Starbucks has announced a groundbreaking new partnership with Arizona State University; full-time or part-time employees can earn an online degree through the school and Starbucks will pick up the tab.

The arrangement would mean that the coffee chain’s 135,000 employees could graduate from a major US public education institution debt-free. Starbucks employees who enroll in the program wouldn’t even have to stay on with the company.

“In the last few years, we have seen the fracturing of the American Dream,” said Starbuck chairman, president and chief executive Howard Schultz. “There’s no doubt, the inequality within the country has created a situation where many Americans are being left behind. The question for all of us is, should we accept that, or should we try and do something about it.”

From providing health insurance to offering stock options, the Seattle-based company has treated its low-wage workers, or “partners” as the company calls them, differently than other similar chains.

“Supporting our partners’ ambitions is the very best investment Starbucks can make,” Schultz said. “Everyone who works as hard as our partners do should have the opportunity to complete college, while balancing work, school and their personal lives.”

A long-time supporter of online education, ASU president Michael M. Crow is scheduled to formally announce the new program in New York on Monday with education secretary Arne Duncan.

“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,” Crow said in a statement. “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.”

In a question-and-answer style article posted to the ASU website, the school described the demands the new program is expected to place on his school’s infrastructure.

“New faculty will be hired as needed by each department to maintain an average faculty student ratio of 1:24,” the article said. “ASU’s instructional models, tools and curriculum are designed for teaching and learning at scale. ASU is ensuring we have all the faculty and support staff to deliver the same quality programs that ASU already makes available on ASU Online.”

The article also said the school may pursue similar arrangements with other employers in the future.

“We have a constant desire to find new ways to offer qualified students the opportunity to receive a quality higher education and will continue to seek out and evaluate partnerships with like-minded companies who are committed to the ongoing education of their employees,” the article said.

“Those who’ve been clamoring for bold, new initiatives to reduce the barriers to quality higher education in America should applaud this announcement,” Crow added. “As others follow Starbucks example, we will hear those barriers come crashing down, to the lasting benefit of all Americans.”

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