Starbucks has added a new college benefit for its employees called the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.  Like many smart employers, it sees the value of tuition-reimbursement programs, regardless of whether a particular employee remains with Starbucks after the degree is earned.  Starbucks manifests its global thinking in responding to the question of why it is providing this new perk:

Starbucks believes in the promise and pursuit of the American Dream.  While more than 70% of our U.S. partners (employees) are students or aspiring students, we know that only half of Americans who begin college today will actually finish, largely due to financial and work/life barriers.  We’re in a position to help.  Education is one of the very best investments our partners can make, and investing in our partners is the best investment Starbucks can make.

Interestingly, Starbucks was extremely selective and strategic in the program structure.  The employee must enroll in online courses in a degree program with Arizona State University.  On the one hand, this decision could be seen as unnecessarily limiting.  On the other hand, Starbucks thought carefully about its national footprint and its corporate culture in arriving at this decision:

We spent considerable time looking for the right collaboration for our partners.  ASU’s mission, values and brand are a good match to our own.  Arizona State is the only University that could stand side-by-side with Starbucks to offer a high-quality education, at scale, to all of our U.S. partners.  Plus, ASU is ranked the second most innovative school in the country by U.S. News & World Report, and ranks 5th in the U.S. in producing the best-qualified graduates.  Starbucks is proud to join with an academic institution that recognizes the need for innovation to offer more people a shot at a quality higher education, and the freedom to pursue their passions in any field.

I think this is a marvelous development from which all participants stand to benefit for many reasons:

1—Higher education is always a great investment both for the employee and for the organization.

2—Starbucks has immediately increased its value as a desirable employer, thereby improving its talent attraction and retention.

3—In the bigger picture, this is a collaborative win-win-win situation: ASU, the Starbucks organization, and the Starbucks employee.

4—Starbucks is holistically embracing higher education.  Starbucks recognizes that not every employee will stay with the organization after graduation.  Nonetheless, Starbucks is taking the global, holistic view.  It knows that when its employees succeed, everyone succeeds.

5—Starbucks is committed to staying on the cutting edge.  Regardless of how successful the organization is, Starbucks is constantly self-assessing.  This new program is evidence of that fact.

6—This new program gives new hope.  Many people who did not see a way to earn their degrees will now have a way.

About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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