Starbucks to Fund College Education for Employees

mark tuminello starbucks collegeStarbucks has been making headlines after their announcement of their bold plan to pay for college education for their employees. The program is a partnership between Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and the president of the online degree program Arizona State University Michael Crow. Both men came from underprivileged beginnings; Schultz was raised in the Bayview housing project in Brooklyn.

The program was born out of the fact that children raised in situations similar to them are much less likely to complete a four-year degree. The pair said as much during the presentation of the program recently at the New York Times Center.

The fact of the matter is that employees of Starbucks do not have a college education. It is reported that a full 50% of students drop out of college mostly because of the high costs of attending.

Here’s the plan: Starbucks employees who work 20 hours a week will be eligible for the Starbucks College Achievement plan, which offers full tuition for juniors and seniors to complete a bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University. 50% reimbursement is available for freshmen and sophomores.

The hopes for the plan are two-fold. The central mission is to make a dent in the growing situation of class-based education. Low-income students have less than a 10% chance of finishing college. The second mission is to shine a light on the situation, perhaps in the hopes that more programs like this could be initiated at some of the other major employers in the country.

The presentation was given to 170 employees of Starbucks, each picked by their managers as excellent employees who are in need of the program. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was present to answer questions. He later thanked Schultz for fostering such a positive, employee-focused culture.

A 17-year old employee raised in Bushwick projects by a single mom was particularly moved by the announcement. She told the crowd that she ‘only committed to one man in [her] life, and that’s you.’ Schultz jumped out of his seat to give her a big hug.

Schultz later remarked that he doesn’t believe that the primary role of a for-profit business is to make money. To truly create value for shareholders, a business must create long-term value for people. The full tuition reimbursement joins a similar plan for part-time employees for health insurance, a program started in 1988.

While there are risks in providing these kinds of programs to employees – Schultz admitted he had no idea how many employees would take advantage of the program. Nobody expects this to damage the future of the coffee company.

from Mark Tuminello – newest post from the blog of Mark Tuminello

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