Starbucks will provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers — without requiring that they remain with the company— through a arrangement with Arizona State University, the company and the university announced Monday.
The program is open to any of the company’s 135,000 U.S. employees, provided they work at least 20 hours a week and have the grades and test scores to gain admission to Arizona State. For a barista with at least two years of college credit, the company will pay full tuition; for those with fewer credits, it will pay part of the cost, but even for many of them, courses will be free, with government and university aid.
“Starbucks is going where no other major corporation has gone,” said Jamie P. Merisotis, president and chief executive of the Lumina Foundation, a group focused on education. “For many of these Starbucks employees, an online university education is the only reasonable way they’re going to get a bachelor’s degree.”
Many employers offer tuition reimbursement, but usually with limitations such as the full cost not being paid, new employees being excluded, requiring that workers stay for years afterward, or limiting it to work-related courses.
Starbucks is inviting its workers to study whatever they like, and then leave whenever they like.