It didn’t take having a doctorate to predict that the recent Race Together program at Starbucks would create backlash and negative publicity, but the coffeehouse giant didn’t read the tea leaves on that one. Now the brand is helping its workers go back to college and expand their professional horizons in its latest pro-social effort.
The world’s biggest coffee purveyor has doubled its free college tuition plan for US employees to four years from two, reimbursing them after each semester for the classes they have taken.
The classes must be taken through partner Arizona State University’s online program and will help at least 25,000 employees graduate by 2025.
Starbucks is allocating at least $250 million to make it happen. As it is now, more than 144,000 Starbucks employees are eligible for the program, USA Today (Starbucks’ Race Together content partner) reports.
Employees that already have four-year degrees can’t apply and neither can workers at Starbucks’ affiliated licensed stores, such as those in grocery stores, Barnes & Noble and Target stores, CNN reports. That still leaves 70% of its workers eligible and those that take part have zero obligation to stick around to be baristas after earning a degree.
“By giving our partners access to four years of full tuition coverage, we provide them with a critical tool for a lifelong opportunity,” stated Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, a firm believer that promoting social good is good for business. “We’re stronger as a nation when everyone is afforded a pathway to success.”
Peter Madden, CEO of AgileCat, commented to USA Today that effort is all about what Starbucks was originally built from: the idea of community. “To give an employee four years of free college is to say, ‘We care about you and want you to have your best possible life,'” he told the paper.
It’s not Starbucks’ only education-based initiative.As part of the program, ASU has created a new retail management degree to help students gain knowledge that will directly help them if they want to stay with Starbucks after graduation.
The company’s Teavana unit has raised $5 million through a partnership with Oprah Winfrey so that every cup of Teavana Oprah Chai sold triggers a donation from Starbucks.
Nonprofit beneficiaries include Girls Inc., National CARES Mentoring Movement, Pathways to College and U.S. Dream Academy.