Over 4,000 Starbucks employees have applied to Arizona State University (ASU) this fall as the company kicks off a new program that offers full tuition reimbursement for any employee taking online courses with the university as a junior and senior.
Freshmen and sophomores are eligible for partial scholarships and grants as well.
The number represents about 2.2 percent of the company’s 180,000 employees worldwide, and will make up a substantial part of the approximately 13,000 students expected to take classes with ASU Online this year. Participating employees include everything from electrical engineering majors to English majors, ASU President Michael Crow told faculty members this week, according to the Arizona Republic.
The program, dubbed the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, was announced with much fanfare last June, with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz saying that those taking advantage of the program have no obligation or expectation to pay Starbucks back or to stay on with the company after completing their degrees. The program is open to any employee working at least 20 hours a week. With credits normally costing about $500 apiece in the program, the scholarship can save participants tens of thousands of dollars.
The program has been criticized for only fully funding students in their last two years and for reimbursing them after completing credits rather than providing tuition up-front, but both Starbucks and Crow have defended the set-up by saying it encourages degree completion and ensures students have a stake in their success.
Not all of the 4,000 applicants will eventually be admitted, as some applicants may change their education plans or simply fall short of admissions requirements. However, they represent a strong beginning for a program that both Starbucks and ASU believe will draw thousands of students every year to the university, providing the school with additional students and funds for its fledgling online program and the company with positive publicity.
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