A college degree does not come cheap, but Starbucks hopes to change that for its employees. The Wall Street Journal writes that since 2007, tuition at four-year public institutions has jumped over 25 percent. Prices have become so high that over 200 U.S. colleges operate food pantries to help feed students who cannot afford the steep costs of school and are severely in debt. According to a press release, the coffee chain is attempting to alleviate that burden for its employees and will now pay for its baristas to complete a college degree on their dime.
Last summer, the company announced its Starbucks College Achievement Plan, which gives employees who work at least 20 hours per week partial tuition coverage, as long as they complete their degree through Arizona State University's online program. Starbucks is upping their offer, and will now cover four years of college instead of just two. The new version of the program also means that employees will be reimbursed for tuition costs faster. Plus, there will be looser requirements on who qualifies for the program: In its previous iteration, the program was only open to those who were admitted as juniors and seniors. Now, the initiative is open to all levels.
Starbucks has high hopes for the initiative: USA Today notes that the company plans to invest $250 million to "help at least 25,000 employees graduate by 2025." CEO Howard Schultz tells Reuters that Starbucks is open to funding master's degrees, too. A Starbucks spokesperson notes that 144,000 of the chain's employees qualify for this program, but so far only a couple thousand have enrolled.