Starbucks said this week it is “doubling down” on its free college offer, expanding from two years to four years the ambitious tuition reimbursement program it announced in 2014. The announcement also deals with criticism the program has received because student/employees had been required to shell out considerable sums and wait until they received 21 credits before reimbursement. Now, students can be repaid for tuition costs at the end of each semester.
Earlier, the program only covered junior and senior year at Arizona State University through its online offerings. Now, it will cover all four years.
Perhaps in part because of the upfront cost, uptake of the Starbucks program might have been a bit slower than you’d imagine, In a letter to employees on Monday, CEO Howard Schultz disclosed that 2,000 workers had signed up, but “tens of thousands” are “actively” interested.
“By doubling down on our investment in our partners’ education, we are helping at least 25,000 Starbucks partners graduate by the year 2025 and giving access to higher education to all of our eligible U.S. partners,” Schultz wrote. “I am proud that we remain committed to creating opportunities for our people as well as for thousands of Americans, be it by offering life-changing benefits for our partners.”
Robery Kelhum, who studies higher education at Seton Hall University and had been critical of Starbucks’ earlier offer, gave praise to the firm for the enhancement in an email to InsideHigherEd.com
“However, if the pool of employees enrolling at A.S.U. Online is mostly students closer to completing a bachelor’s degree, extending the full benefit to more students may not be as impactful,” he said. “(K)udos to Starbucks for making the program more generous,” but added that “I look forward to seeing an evaluation of its effectiveness.”
I wrote about some of the problems with Starbucks’ initial offer for Credit.com, here. The changes address many of them, but one remains: Starbucks employees, to obtain the benefit, must attend Arizona State online. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a limitation.