Starbucks extends free college education for 4 years to all full-time employees

Starbucks Corp announced on Monday that it would expand its college tuition assistance programme covering the entire cost of a four-year online bachelor's degree. The move marked a major expansion of the previous commitment of the company.

Since last June, Starbucks had been offering tuition coverage to juniors and seniors in partnership with Arizona State University under its "Starbucks College Achievement Plan" (See: Starbucks to pay tuition for employees to graduate). Under the plan the company paid up to two full years of college.

Interestingly, employees do not need to commit to stay with Starbucks after they graduated.

Dallas News quoted Jamie P Merisotis, president and chief executive of the Lumina Foundation, a group focused on education, as saying in June 2014, Starbucks was going where no other major corporation had gone.

He added, for many of these Starbucks employees, an online university education was the only reasonable way to get a bachelor's degree.

The new move sought to extend the programme to cover the entire four years to its partners for a bachelor's degree through ASU's online programme.

Starbucks has announced that it is now offering 4 years of free college to all its full-time employees. Starbucks had already established a generous college tuition plan in June 2014, called the College Achievement Plan, which it offered to full-time employees.

Now Starbucks has announced a 4-year college payment plan that would allow Starbucks employees to go after even higher educational goals. The new benefit did not quite cover the cost of an Ivy League school, but it still compared well against several affordable state universities, which would suit a lot of young adults.

The alternative of financing college tuition through employee wages was not a feasible option, especially with some teens and people in their early 20s making only $10 per hour, plus tips. The possibility of taking out a student loan too could be difficult for many employees.

According to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz  the company expected to spend at least $250 million over the next decade on tuition for at least 25,000 employees. He added, the benefit had been requested by the company's employees.

"The unfortunate reality is that too many Americans can no longer afford a college degree, particularly disadvantaged young people, and others are saddled with burdensome education debt," he said in a statement.

Though many employers offered tuition reimbursement, those programmes usually came with limitations like only partial reimbursements for the study or new employees being excluded, requiring that workers stayed for years afterward, or limiting reimbursement to work-related courses.

Starbucks is, in effect, inviting its workers, from the day they join the company, to study whatever they like, and then leave whenever they like - knowing that many of them, with degrees in hand, would leave for better-paying jobs.