Last June, Starbucks made headlines with a plan to help its employees get an affordable college degree. At the time, the company said it would make its U.S. workers eligible for significant tuition reimbursements if they enrolled in classes through the online bachelor’s degree program at Arizona State University. (Disclosure: Slate partners with ASU and New America on Future Tense.)
A little less than a year down the line, Starbucks is seriously expanding that initiative. The so-called Starbucks College Achievement Plan will now offer full tuition coverage for ASU’s online degree programs to more than 140,000 eligible full- and part-time workers. Starbucks anticipates spending up to $250 million on the college initiative over the next 10 years, and plans to have at least 25,000 graduates of it by 2025. “Everyone deserves a chance at the American dream,” Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz said in a press release.* “By giving our partners access to four years of full tuition coverage, we will provide them a critical tool for lifelong opportunity.”
The really remarkable thing about the expanded program, as was true of the initial version, is that it comes with no strings attached. Any benefits-eligible Starbucks employee who doesn’t already have a college degree can enroll in one of ASU’s 49 online bachelor’s degree programs through the company, but will have no commitment to Starbucks upon graduation. On average, four years of tuition at ASU Online costs $60,000, and roughly 2,000 Starbucks employees have enrolled in the offering since it first launched. So far, the reaction to this news is looking pretty positive. After the disastrous #RaceTogether flop, Starbucks could use it.
*Correction, April 7, 2015: This post originally misspelled Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s last name.