Starbucks Offers to Pay Employees' College Tuition: But Is It A PR Stunt?
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Recognizing that receiving a college education and working for a living are often mutually exclusive, Starbucks is implementing a cutting edge program to ensure that any employee who wants to get a college degree can.
The initiative, done in conjunction with Arizona State University (ASU), was implemented because Starbucks said that the company "believes in the promise and pursuit of the American Dream." So they are offering their "partners" (aka employees) the chance to get a bachelor's degree with " full tuition reimbursement ." Employees can select any of the 40 online undergraduate degree programs at ASU.
The benefit is available to U.S employee, working in support centers, plants or at any company-operated stores (including Teavana, La Boulange, Evolution Fresh and Seattle's Best Coffee stores), and who do not have a bachelor's degree. Employees. according to a company release, "admitted as a junior or senior, according to ASU's admission requirements, will earn full tuition reimbursement for each year of coursework they complete toward a bachelor's degree. Freshmen and sophomores will receive a partial scholarship and need-based financial aid toward the foundational work of completing their degree."
What is even more generous is that Starbucks in not requiring a commitment for employees to remain at Starbucks after they graduate. This is contrary to most company tuition refund programs - even for university employees, which often require a certain commitment after graduating.
"We're proud to help thousands of our partners build a bright futurewhether they aspire to build a career at Starbucks, or beyond," said Starbucks in a release.
But is this pure altruism or a PR stunt?
"I am inclined to see it in a skeptical view," said George Leef, director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in North Carolina. "We already have a whole lot of people in many lower skilled jobs, even at Starbucks, who have bachelor's degrees. This is the kind of thing that makes Starbucks, which has this nice, green, progressive image, look even better. Especially since they are not requiring employees to remain with the company."
Is this just a way of perpetuating a vicious cycle of over-educated workers performing low-skilled tasks -- wrapped up in a tidy corporate cover?
Starbucks argues in its announcement that 70% of their employees are students or aspiring students. This was one reason the company wanted to help.
"This is going to give our partners hope, opportunity and the freedom to believe in themselves and their careers for the long term," said Starbucks founder, chairman, president and CEO Howard Schultz, in a written statement. "The Starbucks College Achievement Plan is part of the answer to the question 'what is the role and responsibility of a public company,' and for me it demonstrates the heart and the conscience of Starbucks."